Last September, I found out I had prostate cancer. At 54, I am younger than most men who get this disease.

I received the news at work and was able to finish my shift focused and energetic. I was composed because I had been talking with both my primary care doctor and urologist. We had discussed prostate cancer after a series of tests showed my PSA bouncing up and down, frequently registering above the normal level. I read as much as I could about a cancer, that if caught early, has a high cure rate.

Men need to study the prostate years ahead of time. The more they know, the more they can stay calm after a cancer diagnosis.

I’m nervous about physicals, but I keep current with doctor visits. I also use the Internet. Medical websites are great, but they can’t substitute for a doctor.

Almost six years ago, I had my first PSA test. It was just shy of 5.0. Antibiotics brought the level down. After fluctuating over the next few years, my PSA began to level out; still above normal. My urologist ordered a needle biopsy, which was awkward, but painless.

The biopsy showed an abnormality. The tissue was sent back east for another evaluation. The second opinion agreed there was an abnormality, but no cancer. Months later, a second biopsy revealed a small cancer confined to the prostate. My urologist discussed my disease and treatment options; he felt confident the cancer was caught early.

Prostate cancer is a disease a man can prepare for years ahead of time. Physical exams are essential. As a guy reaches 40, he needs to talk with his doctor about the prostate and determine when to begin tests. A few uncomfortable moments in the doctor’s office can mean the difference between catching prostate cancer when it is curable and when it is advanced. In many cases, when a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he does not have to decide on a treatment immediately. Often, there will be time to research and make a decision with the help of the doctor and family.

Currently, my urologist is using “active surveillance,” meaning I return every four months for tests. Time will tell if I can continue monitoring the cancer or undergo surgery or radiation treatment. Women need to convince their husbands, boyfriends or male relatives to learn about this pesky walnut-sized gland.

This article by Scott Keith appeared in Northwest Senior and Boomer News — April 2009 edition