By Dr. Timothy & Melissa Quinn
Jackson Advocate Guest Writers
I looked Mr. Jones in the eyes and said, “You want to know!” This was in response to him telling me that he did not follow up with his urology appointment after I referred him to a secondary medical source due to his history of having difficulties urinating, an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen), and blood in his urine. His reasoning for not following up with his appointment was that he was so overwhelmed with life that he did not want to find out that he had any problems with his health. He further explained that he had lost his father to a coronavirus infection with lung complications and now had to care for his elderly mother with severe Alzheimer’s.
I further explained to Mr. Jones that prostate cancer is a form of cancer that is typically slow-growing, meaning that most men with this cancer have a better chance of survival compared with some of the other forms of cancer that are typically more aggressive, such as lung cancer. This is typically the case with prostate cancer, but I also shared that all cancer patients have a chance of a better prognosis if diagnosed and treated early. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated (if cancer is detected in a patient), the better chance the patient has of not losing their life. I told Mr. Jones that it was imperative that he allow me to reschedule his appointment because he not only had an elevated PSA but had signs and symptoms, including blood in the urine and trouble urinating.
The elevated PSA test result is an indicator that the patient may have prostate cancer. I shared that the elevated PSA, blood in the stool, and trouble urinating were all worrisome and indicative that he had a higher likelihood of not only having cancer but undiagnosed and untreated cancer that was more advanced. Other tests are needed to make a confirmation, but these tests are typically done by a urologist. I explained this to my patient, and encouraged him not to miss his rescheduled appointment. I ended by reiterating that the more delayed the treatment is, if he is diagnosed with cancer, the higher the probability he has for losing his life.
According to the American Cancer Society, other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. It is estimated that prostate cancer in the United States will reach about 248,530 new cases by the end of 2021. It is also estimated that the United States will have 34,130 deaths due to prostate cancer. It has been estimated that 1 out of 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. It is more prevalent in older non-Hispanic Black men. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer.
In preparation for this article, I spoke with two of my colleagues practicing urology here in Mississippi about their experience in regards to prostate cancer patients during this Covid-19 pandemic. A urologist is a doctor that specializes in the treatment of conditions in the urinary system. This also includes providing the testing for the confirmation of prostate cancer.
Overwhelmingly, both of these providers shared that many patients have canceled their appointments, rescheduled their appointments, and some have not shown up. Many of these patients, according to these medical specialists, were really “putting themselves at risk”.
One of the urologists shared the case of a patient who was told that he allowed his cancer to advance to an untreatable stage due to delaying his follow up for over a year. My colleague further explained that his patient was diagnosed with prostate cancer with a high probability of successful treatment, due to being diagnosed in an earlier stage, during the beginning of the pandemic in 2019. The urologist further shared that this patient is now being referred to hospice, which is a treatment program for medical conditions that are terminal, due to his lack of following up to schedule the surgery in 2019. My friend ensured that his office enforces the safest environment with COVID-19 safety measures possible.
We pray that everyone reading this article will be encouraged to follow up with all their doctor’s appointments while practicing the safest protocols during this pandemic, and understand that “We want to know.” This is because knowledge is the power that allows us to make the most informed decisions that can potentially save our lives.