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Get Your PSA Checked Annually

Jeff Jones was aware of the risks associated with high Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels.

In January 2015 after an annual checkup, doctors told him his PSA levels were high and encouraged further monitoring. He underwent blood work and a biopsy that revealed nothing more than what he already knew.

So when doctors suggested he receive one more biopsy after failed attempts to lower his PSA, Jones was in no rush to have it done.

“Honestly, I put that procedure off for a couple of months because I didn’t think I had cancer,” Jones said. “I thought, ‘I’m feeling fine. There are no symptoms.”

It turns out he was wrong.

He was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove it in March.

“For the most part, it’s slow-growing,” Jones said. “It’s not particularly aggressive in most cases.”

Darla Porter, nurse practitioner with the Joe Arrington Cancer Center at Covenant Health, said stories like his are common.

“Men just don’t go to the doctor, in general,” she said.

“Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men in the United States”, Porter said.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 180,890 new cases will be diagnosed by the end of 2016 and it’s projected to take about 26,120 lives.

There usually aren’t any symptoms, Porter said, but elevated PSA levels are a red flag. The risks increase with age.

Dr. Allan Haynes Jr., a professor of urology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said prostate cancer can be cured if it’s caught early. The challenge is getting men to go to the doctor.

“When you talk about men’s health, men should watch their blood pressure, they should watch their weight and glucose for diabetes,” Haynes said.

But, too often, they don’t.

It’s not uncommon for a man to show up to the doctor when he’s in pain and the condition has progressed, Haynes said.

Treatments vary between radiation, hormone treatments and surgery, said Porter.

The potential side effects create a stigma against seeking treatment, she said.

Some of those side effects include libido changes, urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, Porter said.

They vary on a case-by-case basis.

Jones said he feels fortunate he experienced few and mild side effects after his surgery.

“Here’s the important thing,” Jones said. “I had a closed, robotic procedure.”

It’s one of two surgical options he was given, Jones said. The robotic procedure was the less invasive of the two presented.

Haynes said the procedure is done laparoscopically.

There’s little difference between the procedures, but the robotically-assisted procedure seems to yield a shorter recovery time, he said.

It was the perfect option for Jones, a local business owner, to get back to work faster and spend a little energy playing with his then-newborn grandchild.

Jones said he was out for one week before going back to his window and siding contractor business.

“If I had wanted to push it, I could have been back after a few days,” he said.

Doctors continue to monitor his PSA levels, Jones said, but so far, he’s clear.

The message he wants men to take away from his story is to get checked and be proactive. If he’d waited a little longer to visit his doctor, his story could have turned out differently.

“Get your PSA checked,” he said. “Do not be satisfied with getting a physical exam.”

Men Must Speak Up and be pro-active when it comes to annual physicals and prostate exams.

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