Feature Archive

Diagnosed With Cancer

When the results are in, what are your options?

WebMD Feature

May 8, 2000 -- It's Monday, February 7, 2000. I've just had my second prostate biopsy within six months. The results are expected by Friday at the latest. On Friday afternoon, there's a voice mail message from the doctor: "We have the results. I'll call again Monday." Frantic, I call from the car. He's not there. The wait until Monday is agonizing. Have I got cancer? I need to know.

I call at 8.30 a.m., Monday, February 14. "Doctor won't be in 'til 9." I call back at 9 precisely. "Doctor's with a patient."

"Tell him I need to talk to him now. Please."

He comes to the phone. He's sorry to say that one of the six tissue samples examined is cancerous, and he asks if we can we have a "talk" next Wednesday.

As I put down the phone I think to myself, "So that's it." I'm among the estimated 180,400 American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Now I know that deep within the most intimate recesses of my body there lurks a silent killer. Silent because there are no outward and visible signs, no pains, no perceptible changes in my health or in my body. When I urinate, it's the same as it's been all my life.

I had always been vaguely aware that older men get "prostate trouble," which I imagined as an inability to urinate easily and difficulty in getting an erection. "That's not me," I hoped. Ever since my late 50s, as part of my annual physical exam, I'd had blood tests for PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), but I'd never paid much attention to them.