CNN.com has a medical article posted that details the prostate adventures of Andrew Traver, who fed his hyper-paranoia about his health by getting screened for prostate cancer at the age of 40, well before most medical professionals recommend.
Four years later, at the age of 44, Traver was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors opined that if Traver had waited until the suggested age of 50 for his screening, he would probably be dead.
So what's the right answer?
Starting in my early 40s, as part of diagnostic evaluation for other problems, my doctor began giving me occasional rectal exams. In fact, it's become a running family gag that she has had her finger up my butt so often that I now take flowers to every visit. But is she just playing the caution game?
I've yet to have the PSA test for the prostate-specific antigen that would indicate trouble is brewing down there, but should I request it? Doctors seem split on early screening. Some believe that early detection can be both a blessing and a curse, because it increases the chance of survival, but others have concerns around being able to differentiate between slow-growing and more aggressive types of prostate cancer, and the treatment regimens might lead to unwelcome complications such as impotence or incontinence. That's a pretty big trade-off for a small, slow-growing cancer that might take 10-20 years to become problematic.
Still, it's cancer, for Pete's sake. Being somewhat risk averse, I'd rather know as soon as I could, and deal with the options based on available information. I think I'll ask my doctor the my next visit. I'm only two years away from that magic age anyway.
I must admit that while uncomfortable, I didn't feel the shame or violation that Peter Griffin felt when he had his first rectal exam. I know a lot of men who would react like Peter. I'd like to think of it as karma in action, but that would be unkind of me.