Yesterday I had a consultation with a doctor and a nurse practitioner at York Hospital. I viewed the MRI scan of my prostate. Reading a report about an MRI and viewing an MRI are not the same thing. It’s similar to the difference between reading a summary of a baseball game and actually being there in the stands. I saw the two lesions on my prostate. They were bright spots on a dark oval, and that’s a cause for concern. It gave new meaning to the phrase “bright spots.”
I’m going to have a biopsy on November 18th. That’s what I really want to talk about, because I’m not writing this blog to only report on my condition. Believe me, I’d much rather be writing about writing. This is about the second most common form of cancer in men after skin cancer–prostate cancer.
These next three paragraphs are what I recall my urologist and the doctor I met yesterday telling me in conversation. If I’m wrong, I hope some doctor out there will correct me. To get started, the medical “gold standard” for detection of prostate cancer is a biopsy. It’s been that way for 20 years. You wouldn’t know it if you’re young and healthy, but trust me, most medical procedures have advanced tremendously in the last 20 years. I have first-hand knowledge of that. Not so much for prostate screening.
Most biopsies consist of small needles, from 10-12, used to collect tissue samples from the prostate. These samples are then analyzed. The prostate is about the size of a walnut or golf ball. I’m going to use a golf ball for my example. Ever look at the dimples on a golf ball? There are quite a few of them. Now imagine taking 12 samples from twelve dimples. See what I’m saying? It’s not hard to miss something. Yesterday I was told that regular biopsies miss 40% of cancers. The doctor who used that figure is a very firm believer in imaging. He said the ladies have it down pat with breast cancer screening, but men have a long way to go when it comes to prostate screening.
Since I had an MRI, the doctor will be using the images of the MRI to take samples from the specific areas which seem suspicious. In other words, the golf ball dimples get colored in beforehand, and that’s where the needles go (I’m told they also go into other areas). A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes using MRI with ultrasound produces better biopsy results.
I hope this educates at least one guy out there. Ladies, you may have to help. Men, at least consider a PSA test. All you do is give a blood sample. That’s the starting point. Although prostate issues can be very confusing depending on your age, race, and family history, unless you trust Larry King or some other talking head on TV with your health, it’s something men should consider.