A Wife's Perspective on Prostate Cancer
This Patient Pointers was written by Cecelia George, the wife of a man diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. Since her husband's diagnosis, one of her goals has been to educate other women about prostate cancer and to encourage the men in their lives to practice healthy behaviors.
Most women don't like "bugging" their men. However, if your spouse or significant other is dragging his feet about getting a prostate examination, you may need to take the initiative. Make the appointment, lasso him, and drive him in for the test.
Women undergo mammograms, Pap smears, and endless waiting for results. While men see to it that we take care of ourselves, their health is a horse of a different color. And while I'm talldng about horses, I hereby give you permission to be a nag (just about this one thing) and get him in for prostate testing. Macho men often take the view that nothing bad can happen to them, but statistics prove otherwise.
In the American Cancer Society's Cancer Facts & Figures-1992, there were an estimated 132,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States.
The report estimates that 165,000 cases and 35,000 deaths from prostate cancer will occur in 1993. Approximately 1 in every 11 men will develop prostate cancer. This is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer in men. There were an estimated 34,000 deaths from prostate cancer in 1992, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
My husband, Lisle George, is 63 years old. He happened to read a newspaper column where a concerned person wrote in and asked about the PSA (prostate-specific antigert) blood test. Lisle was impressed by the article and went to his family doctor, who refused to give him the test, saying that the digital examination was all that he needed and that he was "fine, not to worry." Lisle was persistent and contacted a new physician.
The doctor said this simple blood test detects PSA, a protein produced only by the prostate that can be increased when cancer is present. The higher the PSA level in the blood, the greater the likelihood that cancer is present and that further testing is needed. Normal levels of the antigert in the prostate are under 4 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Lisle's result was 7 ng/mL.
Lisle was sent to a urologist, and further tests demonstrated that he had prostate cancer. My husband and I were both called in and the doctor ex- plained the options. Being married only 6 years at the time of diagnosis and still called "honeymooners," we did not want anything to change our marital re- lations. Therefore, we chose nerve-sparing surgery. Lisle was sent to a University Medical Center where successful nerve-sparing surgery was performed.
So wives, if you value your man as I do, I strongly suggest that you go ahead--be a nag. Don't let your man be a statistic. I have recently completed training as a certified nurse's aid and had part of my training in a urology unit. Believe me, I saw many patients undergo prostate surgery. In the 1991 report of the community cancer program in which I trained, 269 of the 973 new cancer cases were of the prostate gland. My work now takes me to retirement centers and care centers, and it doesn't take me long to realize that the women are outliving the men. Unlike the digital rectal exam, the PSA blood test is not part of a regular checkup. However, ira man has a family history of prostate cancer or simply desires to have the test done, he should be persistent until a doctor agrees to perform the test. If surgery is necessary, it can be performed, as in Lisle's case, and your lffe can go on together. If you hold your man's hand and get him to doctor and through the recovery period, your relationship will be enriched and you can go on living. We love life and are active people-and we're fortunate that we were persistent enough to push for a diagnosis. Together we battled cancer and won.
For the Cancer Information Service and for all support group information call: 1-800-ACS-2345How can we as wives help prevent cancer in our husbands?
- Help him to maintain desirable weight.
- Prepare a varied diet for him.
- Have him eat more high-fiber foods such as whole-grain cereals, breads, pasta, vegetables and fruits.
- Cut down on total fat intake. A diet high in fat may be a factor in the development of certain cancers, particularly breast, colon, and prostate.
- Limit consumption of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrite-cured foods (luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs).
- Limit consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
- Encourage men 40 and over to have a digital rectal examination as part of an annual physical check-up. If the results are suspicious, further testing should be performed.