“I don’t have the time.” “It’s too expensive.” “I’m afraid of what I might find out.” “I’m fine.” “It’s no big deal, I’ll tough it out.” If you are a wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, daughter friend or loved one of a man who refuses to see a doctor, these are some of the excuses you may have heard from him for avoiding a medical check-up. Unfortunately however studies have shown that men die at higher rates than women for all the leading causes of death and that men “live sicker and die younger than women.” So the time has come for men to make the time, cough up the money and “man up” to the reality that they need to be more proactive about their health.
Mr. Anthony Walton, a 53 year old carpenter in Cayman Brac and local prostate cancer survivor, learned this lesson the hard way. Approximately four years ago, Mr. Anthony went to the hospital simply to obtain a refill for his medication. His doctor, however, told him that before he could do so Mr. Anthony would first need to do some tests and referred him to Dr. Backman, a urologist. The results of his PSA blood test (17) and the digital rectal exam (a lump) both pointed to the fact that cancer might be present in his prostate. A biopsy was performed, confirming suspicions of cancer. A year after his diagnosis Mr. Anthony began treatment, choosing to have radiation treatment in Jamaica instead of the US.
Mr. Anthony indicates that although he was a little worried after receiving this diagnosis, he was not scared because the doctor reassured him that the cancer was very small and growing very slowly. He spoke of his diagnosis to his wife, father and brothers and felt much supported. In the end however, he put his faith in the doctor’s hands.
When asked about his family history, Mr. Anthony revealed that at least two people in his family, one on his mother’s and one on his father’s side, had prostate cancer. Given his risk factors, it was surprising to find out that Mr. Anthony waited until he was nearly 50 years old to screen for prostate cancer, and only did so as a condition of having his medication refilled. Due to the fact that he had never seen too many doctors and wasn’t having regular check-ups, Mr. Anthony had never heard about the PSA blood test before. He had, however, heard and read about prostate cancer off and on in the newspapers, radio and TV but never took it too seriously. Today, his attitude has changed – Mr. Anthony now sees the doctor on a regular basis and does a PSA blood test every four months. He also has a message for the men of our islands “I would say they should get a physical once a year or so. They also need to know that the statistic shows that about 1 man in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime”
Still, Mr. Anthony was very fortunate because his cancer was found early and his radiation treatment, which lasted approximately 3 ½ months, did not result in severe side effects. At the moment his PSA level is down to two (2) and the doctor assures him that everything looks okay.
Although Mr. Anthony’s success story is inspiring, not all men are so fortunate. The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is observing November as male cancers awareness month and throughout the next few weeks will be submitting articles with basic information on prostate and testicular cancers that all men should know.