We all probably know that it is important to have those regular exams, but how many of us really take the time or make the effort to actually do them? We think that we will be okay until we feel something is going wrong, but often subtle changes could be taking place which it is important to know about before we feel something is wrong. Many times we take our animals to the vet for regular exams before we take ourselves!
Cancer runs in my family. Three of my immediate family members have all had cancer diagnoses. Strokes run in my family and we have family we lost far earlier than we wanted due to these conditions. I live a fairly high-stress life and so it has been important to me to keep an eye on the direction of various markers, such as blood pressure, liver enzymes, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Going to a general practitioner for regular exams is helpful, because you establish a strong baseline for your own body’s condition. When my PSA number began to rise ever so slightly, my GP was on top of it because he had yearly numbers to compare with. He could tell if it was a slow, gradual increase or a rapid, large jump. This was very good for him to know. He felt that although it was a slow, gradual increase, it would be good to go to the next level of testing to rule out cancer. When that test did not rule it out, he went to the next test and then referred me to a specialist, who diagnosed the malignant lesion on my prostate.
I am very grateful that in my situation the cancer was detected quite early. This really gave me the added benefit of being able to make dietary changes and lifestyle changes which I hoped would allow my body to move back into a healthy state. My urologist told me I had time to learn more about this situation and decide which treatment path I wanted to take.
Of course, he presumed that he would be operating. Urologists are surgeons. Well, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail! He, of course, leaned towards surgery. However, he did tell me to take my time and investigate my options because there were some pretty serious side effects of surgery and other invasive treatments for prostate cancer. He even gave me a book about dealing with prostate cancer which had quite a lengthy section on the positive impact of nutrition on the body!
After not hearing from me for seven months, he called me at home, concerned that I was just doing nothing or ignoring his diagnosis. When I went into his clinic armed with my notebook full of charts, graphs, ultrasound JPGs, and blood test results, he was very surprised. And then he was even more surprised when he saw the scans which showed the fading nature of the lesion in the series of ultrasounds. He was so amazed that he said two things: 1) “What are you doing again?” and 2) “Let’s do one more test.”
The PCA3 test was just approved in October 2012 by the FDA as a diagnostic test for prostate cancer. After getting the results of my PCA3 test in December 2012, he said to me, “You are in remission. I don’t need to see you for another six to nine months. Keep doing what you are doing!”
My point is that whatever tests are available during your regular exams to help you keep an eye on the state of your body, you really do want to do them! I know they’re not convenient, you don’t have time to go do them, or they’re not comfortable, but they can really save your life. And we want you around for a lot longer, healthy and strong, productive and successful.
What test have you been putting off or resisting scheduling? That skin cancer screening? That colonoscopy? Or just the basic annual physical? I urge you to schedule that test today. It could make all the difference between your quality of life or your quantity of life.