What is your PSA?
Eleven or so months ago, Seattle Linga posted a PSA (Public Service Announcement – not Prostate Specific Antigen) about not texting or using your phone while driving.
It garnered over 250 responses as people weighed in on the perils of distracted driving. I think SL served a real purpose in reminding us about this hazard.
This got me thinking about if I was to make a Public Service Announcement to my 11W brothers and sisters, what would my message be? As a retired medical professional, I have to fall back onto a medical experience that I think everyone can learn from. As we grow older, certain medical exams become necessary. At a certain age (I believe it is age 50 for men and pretty sure it is the same for women) a colonoscopy is needed to rule out colon abnormalities – especially cancerous lesions. One of the basic truths I learned to firmly believe in over my 30 years of being a nurse is that in health care, it is better to be on the giving side rather than the receiving. So when my 50th birthday approached, I was not too tickled about the prospects of a colonoscopy. My wife would have to take a day off work to drive me two and from the procedure that would be done at a USAF clinic two hours away. I saw it as a big inconvenience. The young AF doctor then offered me a shortcut. Since I was healthy, active, with no family history of colon cancer, he said a flexible sigmoidoscopy would probably be OK instead. This would require no sedation and my wife would not need to take a day off of work to drive me to and fro. That kicked to colonoscopy can down the road for another 5 years.
Fast forward five years and there is no getting around it this time. I had an episode of bright red blood per rectum and got an urgent colonoscopy at the nearby German hospital. A tomato sized mass was found in the colon just beyond where the flexible sigmoidoscopy had gone. The next day, the German surgeon laparoscopically removed the mass, but when he inspected it, he thought it was very likely cancerous, so he opened me up and did a left radical hemicolectomy. He removed thirteen lymph nodes during the procedure, all of which were negative, so chemotherapy was not needed. That was ten years ago and all the follow on labs, ultrasounds, and colonoscopies have been negative. Had I not taken that shortcut, the mass might have been found at a much earlier stage of development and the big surgery avoided.
For those of you that are saying TL;DR, here is my take home message:
1. Know your family history of any serious medical issues so that you know what you might be at risk of having.
2. Listen to your doctors and get the tests they recommend.
3. Don’t be tempted by a shortcut due to convenience.
4. Tell your family every day that you love them because their support will get you through difficult times.
Now it is your turn - what is your PSA?