Friday, December 19, 2014

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Testing for prostate cancer

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Like clockwork, Larry Laden has yearly prostate checks. During his last check up, he received news no one wants to hear.

“I’ve got this prostate cancer and I want it gone," Laden said.

Larry had surgery, which for him was a no-brainer because of the yearly tests that screen for prostate cancer, called a PSA test.

While it was Larry’s choice, the tests have recently caught some controversy.

“The PSA is not a perfect test,” urologist Dr. Brett Baker said. “It’s a good test. It’s a screening tool.”

According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the test can give false alarms, and with it, unnecessary biopsies. When the cancer is found, treatments can leave men impotent, even though their cancers were not life threatening.

“As an urologist and a person who is treating prostate cancer, sitting down with patients, I definitely see the value in PSAs,” Dr. Baker said.

So does Larry.

“I didn’t have any symptoms. The cancer is just in there, growing along, so far as I know, the only way to check on that is a PSA,” he said.

Doctors say the PSA is the one test out there to check for and catch prostate cancer early. By the time a patient sees the doctor with symptoms, the cancer is already advanced. For Larry, the test is a life saver.

“It is easy, it’s a couple of minutes with the doc, a blood draw, you’re good for a year,” he said.

Now, Larry is cancer-free and credits the test -- warts and all -- for saving his life.

Dr. Baker says if you have a family history of prostate cancer, begin yearly screenings at 40 years old, if not, start at age 50.

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