Over the past year, our lawyers have become involved with a number of failures to diagnose and properly treat prostate cancer cases. Regrettably, we have recently seen an increasing number of treating physicians failing to properly pick up the signs of possible prostate cancer. These cases have opened our eyes to the need for the patient to be alert to the serious dangers of this common disease not diagnosed and treated early. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men following only skin cancer. Most men have a less aggressive form of the disease but about 20% have an aggressive form with requires prompt treatment for a cure. The only way to definitively diagnose cancer and its aggressiveness is a prostate biopsy. Although not without its own risks, a biopsy is typically done by a urologist who specializes in cancer of the prostate.
The PSA or prostate-specific antigen blood test can be helpful in diagnosing prostate cancer. The PSA test is often given annually in conjunction with a digital rectal exam. Medical authorities recommend the physician communicating with the patient about whether prostate testing is appropriate and making a decision accordingly.
Generally, if the PSA result is over 4, it is abnormal. In most cases, an abnormal PSA requires the treating physician to promptly refer to a urologist for further treatment or biopsy. If the PSA rises, it becomes more and more critical to refer to a urologist since the aggressive form of the prostate cannot be diagnosed without a biopsy. If the prostate cancer is found early enough, it almost always can be cured. However, if the prostate cancer is not found and properly treated before it escapes the prostate (metastasized), it is likely to be a death sentence.
While we are not physicians and cannot give medical advice, we know from our experience that sometimes doctors do not follow up the test results or talk to the patient as they as they are expected to do under the standard of care. Every man, particularly if they are over 50, should have a discussion with their primary care physician about the efficacy and appropriateness of prostate testing specifically through a PSA. If you or your doctor decide that PSA testing is appropriate, you must follow yourself the PSA results and have a general knowledge of whether your results would require a referral to a urologist. Usually, a PSA of over 4 is considered abnormal although sometimes depending on your age and physical characteristics a lower score would be considered abnormal.
Watch out for yourself-your life could depend upon it.