Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Manly Biopsy

I turned 53 years of age the other day. I was glad to make it there. And I'm more than happy to say "adios" to 52.

Last year was a very difficult year for me physically. I sustained a terrible injury at work that has dragged on for ten months now. During that process, the MD's have found various things wrong with me, or things that warranted investigation. And so I've had a number of tests and procedures done: CT's, Stress EKG's, lab work.

The worst one happened a couple weeks ago. I'll write about it because I don't think men talk about things like this enough. Over the last year, I've had a steadily increasing PSA. The number had become worrisome for my primary doctor, even though I'm on a medication that does increase the PSA, so I went to see a Urologist that I've informally known for years.

When he saw my number (5.6) and the rate it had increased (from 4.4 in nine months), he told me it is very rare for a man my age to have such a critically high number. And it is. He was especially concerned about the size and rate of the increase.  He gave me a couple of choices but he felt it was concerning enough to recommend an "immediate biopsy".

I had always told myself I wouldn't have this procedure done, mainly because it tends to be overly treated in the past. And it is true that if I was 75 years of age and had a PSA like that, the MD wouldn't have done anything. But men in their 50's die of this disease. Often. It is the male equivalent to breast cancer. Prostate cancer is the number two killer cancer of men--lung cancer holds the number one spot---and men in their 50's are often the ones who get it. Plus my sister passed away much too young from breast cancer, which is another hormonally based cancer, so I probably have a higher risk for prostate cancer. Of course, talking with the Urologist scared the bejesus out of me.

Two days later, I was in the procedure room of the hospital getting a prostate biopsy. A word to the wise, Do Not Minimize this procedure.

If you are squeamish, please skip to the last paragraph. The description below is a bit graphic.

What the MD does is insert an ultrasound probe into your rectum which enables the doc to be able to view the prostate. This is uncomfortable enough because it feels like someone put a broomstick up your ass. Then a nail gun device is used to shoot needles into the prostate that take "cores" of tissue out of it. This is similar to the ice cores they get to sample ice in the Antarctic to test for CO2. This is quite painful to have the machine shoot the needles into you. I couldn't watch the screen anymore, because it hurt so much. Joni came along to hold my hand, which was helpful. I don't know why she wanted to attend this procedure though. It ain't pretty.

Usually the doctor takes 12 cores: my MD took 14. He wanted to especially get an area that he thought was suspicious. My prostate was enlarged, which might be genetic, which could account for the high PSA scores right there. Plus I'm on a drug that increases PSA's.

Post procedure, my bottom continued to feel like it had a broomstick stuck up it. And my urine was bloody. I got the results of the test a few days later which were all negative. Every core was benign. I happily drove down to work after getting the news.

However, while in the Napa Valley, I started running a temperature. I couldn't stop sweating. I was in a morning meeting at work where we discuss the patients when I started feeling weird and I was sweating profusely. In the bathroom afterwards, my pee was blood red for the entire stream and I passed clots that were huge. They hurt like they were kidney stones. And my pee was like peeing Cabernet wine. The bleeding scared me it was so much. My thinking even got a bit disturbed, which I've seen with older people, but never thought it would happen to me. I was alone in my room at the dorm of the hospital--and spent a couple of long nights sweating it out while I took antibiotics. I even had a shot of an antibiotic injected into my rump. That helped. A lot.

For other men, I'd say--do not minimize having a prostate biopsy. Do take it easy afterwards for awhile. Don't assume you can resume normal activities when it involves driving for hours and being pretty active. About 4% of men who have this procedure can expect to get infections. About 1% will require hospitalization for treatment of this post procedure infection.

Now that it has been two weeks, I'm still rather reeling from having had this thing done. I don't care what my PSA goes up to: I will never have this procedure done again. I'll take my chances with cancer.

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