Geoff McLennan, Prostate Cancer Patient and Advocate

As we turn the corner on the new year and transition into spring, it’s a good time to start thinking about your routine healthcare visits for the year. For men, regular check-ups with a urologist can be beneficial in maintaining your well-being and addressing any potential concerns. Here are some practical steps to guide you through your urological care journey.

Before diving into the following steps, make sure to get clarity on your insurance coverage by consulting with your carrier. Confirming out-of-pocket costs, deductibles, and coverage for referrals is essential. It’s imperative to be informed about your insurance plan to avoid unexpected expenses.

Here are a few suggestions to help prepare you for your next urological appointment:

  1. Understand the reason behind your primary care physician’s referral to a urologist. Whether it’s issues with urination or persistent pain, identifying the underlying causes, which may not necessarily be related to prostate cancer, is crucial.
  2. If a PSA test (Prostate-Specific Antigen test) hasn’t been performed yet, inquire about it during your visit. This blood test is instrumental in screening for prostate cancer. Learn more about PSA here.
  3. Do you have a history of cancer in your family (prostate, breast, ovarian, or colon)? Certain genetic tests such as Myriad MyRisk® , can determine if you may have inherited a genetic mutation associated with an increased cancer risk.
  4. Prepare a list of questions to discuss with your urologist. Avoid relying solely on internet sources for medical advice. I’ve been wrong before, and I’ve learned that developing a trusting and frank relationship with any doctor is the best medicine.

Dispelling common misconceptions about prostate cancer

Clarifying the following misunderstandings about PCa might surprise you:

1. Only older men get prostate cancer

While the average age of a prostate cancer diagnosis is 65, there are significant risk factors that can affect men as early as 40. The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).

2. I will feel or see symptoms of prostate cancer (PCa)

In the early stages, prostate cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. Regular screenings, such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests and digital rectal exams, are essential for early detection. Learn more about prostate cancer symptoms here.

3. Elevated PSA levels always indicate cancer

A high PSA score (4+) can be caused by various factors, including an enlarged prostate or inflammation, not just cancer. Further diagnostic tests such as a biopsy of the prostate or an MRI may be needed to determine why a PSA score is high.

4. Prostate cancer is always aggressive or fast-growing

Prostate cancer can range from slow to fast-growing. Not all cases require immediate treatment, and some may be safely monitored through active surveillance. Genetic tests like Prolaris® provide an analysis of your individual prostate tumor aggressiveness to determine which treatment option is best for you. This test can tell you and your doctors how to manage your prostate care based on thorough scientific research about the grade of PCa you may have. Replacing fear with facts.

5. All prostate cancers require treatment

Some prostate cancers are slow-growing and may not pose an immediate threat. In such cases, active surveillance, which involves closely monitoring the cancer without immediate treatment, may be a suitable approach.

6. Prostate cancer is a death sentence

Many men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. With early detection and advancements in treatment options, survival rates for prostate cancer are generally high. Seek out camaraderie by joining a prostate cancer support group such as ASPI or PCRI.

7. Treatment always causes impotence and incontinence

Now hold your horses! Who said anything about treatment when you are just beginning urological care? While certain treatments for prostate cancer may carry risks of side effects like impotence and incontinence, not all men experience these outcomes. Advances in treatment techniques aim to minimize these side effects. Since PCa is usually slow growing immediate treatment may not be needed

Incorporating urological care into your healthcare plan requires ongoing dialogue with healthcare providers to tailor screening and management plans to individual needs.  Regular discussions with healthcare providers can help address individual risk factors and determine appropriate screening and management plans for PCa. As you saddle up for your journey, rest assured substantial resources are devoted to you, including your primary care doctor, urologist, nurses, genetic counselors and your family. I have witnessed great advances in prostate care just in the past 10 years, including imaging (ultrasound, MRI), diagnosis, and Active Surveillance. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more advances are coming. If you are new to this journey, be thankful that your care is already advanced and is improving day by day.

Thank you for engaging with this post. Share it with your friends and family, and stay tuned for my next blog post. For further information, please reach out to a Myriad Account Representative at [email protected].

Read more like this: Navigating the Prostate Cancer Screening Process: Questions to Ask Your Urologist

Geoff McLennan, MPA, Prostate Cancer Patient and Advocate

Author Bio:

Geoff is dedicated to helping families and friends support a prostate cancer patient. He joined the board of Active Surveillance Patients International (ASPI) in 2018 and is an 11-year PCa patient. As a PCa patient advocate, he envisions providing a broad understanding of how patients can collaborate with clinicians for realistic medical care. He enjoys meeting and learning from his clinicians, cancer researchers, providing free online programs for patients, and reminds us that “to live, learn and thrive with PCa” is the motto of ASPI. He is glad he took science courses for understanding a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and diet.

Geoff also volunteers as a board member and past chairman of the Placer County Mental Health Advisory Board where his interest includes therapy and resources for AS men, and a broad oversight of community mental health programs and innovations. He is married to Constance McLennan, a fine artist, has a grown son, and lives in Northern California.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views or opinions of Myriad Genetics or its affiliates. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider. Geoff is a paid content writer for Myriad Genetics, Inc.