Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens waves during a ceremony as he is inducted into the team's Hall of Fame during halftime of an NFL football game between the 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Don’t Let Covid Keep You from Taking Action Against Prostate Cancer 

In the final week of August, I received an out-of- the-blue call from a friend asking if I thought he had prostate cancer. I was taken aback. I’m not a doctor but I have lived with prostate cancer for eleven years, and run a nonprofit focused on educating men on reducing the risk of cancer and preventative health measures.  

I asked questions and listened – and came to realize my friend just needed to vent. His fear had been building, and he didn’t want to share his concerns with his wife because he didn’t want her to worry. 

He told me he had blood in his urine, was experiencing some sexual dysfunction, and his last PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test was high. His doctor had urged him to get retested. 

But, all of this happened a year-and-a-half ago. Stunned, I asked him why he’d put off getting re-tested for so long. His answer? “COVID.” He just hadn’t been back to the doctor to get retested during the pandemic. In that time, he had lived with constant anxiety and fear as to whether or not cancer might be growing inside him.  

As I listened, I thought of my father who months ago shared very concerning health issues he had been experiencing for over a year. His reason for not going to the doctor? COVID. 

I’ve heard this from other men too. 

Changes to in-person doctor’s visits and fear of catching COVID were the reasons millions missed cancer screenings and annual checkups in Spring of 2020. 

Though many missed appointments were rescheduled, there are many men who haven’t gone back, thinking “no news is good news.” However, the opposite is often true — men who aren’t scheduling routine cancer screenings and annual checkups as a way of avoiding the issue are increasing their odds of facing deadly consequences. 

Men are already less proactive compared to women when it comes to scheduling annual checkups and cancer screenings. Even if you feel fine and believe you’re healthy and have nothing to be worried about, an annual checkup can reveal a lot. Those revelations can lead you to act. 

In my 20’s and early 30’s, I never got routine checkups, but after a decade of fast living and burning the midnight oil too many times, I decided to schedule a checkup to make sure everything was fine. 

It changed the course of my life. 

Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was 35. I felt fine, I had no symptoms, and no family history of prostate cancer. 

A checkup at the doctor’s office revealed high cholesterol, I was overweight, and I had low testosterone. The high cholesterol and weight were of concern because of a family history of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity. 

Learning I had low-T, I visited a urologist who tested my testosterone levels, and he also alerted me of a high PSA (prostate specific antigen). I didn’t know what that meant but I was given a brief explanation, followed by another PSA test (it had increased), a biopsy and a diagnosis of early-stage prostate cancer.

I was much younger than when men are screened for prostate cancer or when it’s even discussed. It was an inadvertent discovery (a high PSA) which led to more testing. 

Let me make that crystal-clear: despite feeling fine, without an initial CHECKUP and additional TESTING, I wouldn’t have caught it. I wouldn’t have known. 

Knowing gave me options. Knowing gave me power. 

The American Cancer Society estimates 248,530 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and about 34,130 will die from prostate cancer. 

When was the last time you had a checkup? Have you asked your doctor about checking your prostate?

You don’t know what you don’t know, and can’t make choices if you don’t get a checkup and ask your physician about checking your prostate. Take your power back. Be a man who has options and takes charge of his health. 

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. No matter your age, I encourage you to schedule an annual checkup. Ask your doctor about getting your prostate checked. I also encourage you to monitor your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. Know what your numbers mean. 

Eleven years since my diagnosis, I continue to live with early-stage prostate cancer and have no symptoms. I’ve visited six doctors at five world-renowned institutions and made an informed choice to adopt lifestyle interventions while monitoring my disease. Those lifestyle changes include adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet along with exercising daily, managing stress and getting plenty of sleep. Since my diagnosis, I lost 35 pounds, I decreased my body fat, I lowered my cholesterol, and significantly decreased my risks of getting the chronic diseases that prematurely killed members of my family. 

It started with a checkup. 

Schedule one today. 

 

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