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Ken Rechtin: Sharing a personal story for Prostate Cancer Month, proving annual checkup is important

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month.

Every cancer gets a month. And every cancer gets a ribbon. What’s the ribbon all about? Is it just a participation trophy?

Now, every cancer gets a color too. (What’s that all about!? It’s not as though every disease deserves its own color! There are not enough colors in a rainbow for that.) We prostate owners (or ex-owners) really don’t want a ribbon when this finger is better.

Anyway, prostate cancer owns blue (not to be confused with BIG BLUE).

And college football season begins NOW. Foam fingers will be elevated at every stadium in the country. Seeing those #1 fan fingers is an appropriate reminder for us.

A little-known fact is that prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men and is a leading cause of cancer death in men, second only to lung cancer.

Unlike the breast exam which women perform monthly, the DRE (digital rectal exam) is NOT, and I repeat, NOT a self-exam. It’s recommended to see a physician for a digital rectal exam, as they have experience feeling prostates for lumps or enlarged prostate.

The next test is a simple blood test called a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). Again, do NOT draw your own blood for this test. Ask for one of these tests from your primary care provider every year.

PSA screening has profoundly changed the natural history of prostate cancer in the United States. From 1992-2014, there was a 75% decrease in the percentage of men diagnosed with metastases and 53% decrease in the prostate cancer mortality rate. The Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) estimated that 45% – 70% of the mortality decrease is directly attributable to PSA screening.

So, you ask: “Ken, this is all fine and good, but why is this important to you?”

Well, here’s the story…….

In the summer of 2019, at my annual visit with my primary care provider, she performed the annual anal DRE (digital rectal exam) and the annual PSA.

The PSA was elevated and another test three months later showed it was elevated even further. This test is not like a quiz in school, getting a higher number is not the goal.

Next was the visit to a highly recommended urologist during which he scheduled a prostate biopsy.

2019 December 20 was a sad day. My prostate and I were separated permanently. Results were less than enthusiastically received. The cancer (like Elvis) had left the prostate (building). It had metastasized to the lymph nodes in the area. BAD NEWS.

During 2020 June and July, I endured what Dr. Radiation Oncologist recommended. It was radiation treatment of five days a week for seven weeks. I think that they told a little white lie when they said that there were minimal side effects from this radiation.

After radiation was completed, we waited six months before another PSA. At this point ANY detectable level of PSA means that the cancer is BACK.

So, the moral of this story?

Ken Rechtin

I am here today because of the physical, the annual anal exam called the DRE, and the PSA. This is not to throw shade on the folks responsible for keeping me on this earth. A boatload of excellent physicians, technicians and other health care providers are responsible as well.

So, what should you do? Awareness is everything!

• Men ages 45 to 49 should have a baseline PSA test.

 If the PSA level is 3 ng/mL or higher, men should talk with their doctor about having a biopsy of the prostate.

 If the PSA level is between 1 and 3 ng/mL, men should see their doctor for another PSA test every two to four years.

• If you are here on this earth today because of a DRE and a PSA, share your story with others. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about it! Hold your foam finger high!

Ken Rechtin lives in Newport and serves on the Newport Board of Commissioners. He can be reached at kennethrechtin@gmail.com .

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