13 Years Prostate Cancer Free: The Importance of Annual Screenings

By Drew Munhausen

In the early 2000s, Jose Melgar was encouraged by his employer to get a yearly blood test to screen for prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood, a protein produced by cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate.

Elevated levels of PSA could indicate prostate cancer.

“My test results were fine, but my PSA numbers were going up little by little, year over year,” Melgar said. “I had an annual physical with my primary care physician. He saw the increasing numbers from my PSA test and recommended I see a urologist.”

In early 2006, Melgar’s urologist performed a biopsy of his prostate. Samples revealed that Melgar had early stages of prostate cancer despite not showing any physical symptoms.

Melgar was referred to Andrew Selzman, MD, Chairman of Urology at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. Dr. Selzman explained that while radiation was a possible treatment, the chances of the cancer eventually coming back were higher through radiation. Since Melgar was only 48 years old at the time, he was a good candidate for a robotic-assisted prostatectomy.

A prostatectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of the prostate gland. Dr. Selzman was able to do this through a minimally invasive robotic surgery that typically benefits patients with a faster recovery time with less pain and lower risk of complications than an open prostatectomy.

“I remember my surgery being the Monday after the 2006 Super Bowl,” Melgar said. “I had the procedure on Monday and was able to walk out on my own on Tuesday.”

Thirteen years later, Melgar is still cancer-free.

“I still see Dr. Selzman every year,” Melgar said. “I’ve met a lot of people after my surgery who don’t go to the doctor for an annual exam. I like to talk to them about my history and I always recommend going to get an exam just to be safe.”

While many men with early stages of prostate cancer may not exhibit any symptoms, they should consult a physician if they experience pain during urination, inability to urinate, blood in semen or urine or pain in the upper thighs, hips or lower back.

The American Cancer Society and American Urological Association advise men 50 years and older to take an annual PSA test and digital rectal exam. African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should have tests done each year beginning at age 40.

Scientists don’t know for sure what causes prostate cancer, but some studies suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables and limiting fat intake may help offer some protection.

To learn more about prostate cancer and screening, visit https://cancer.memorialhermann.org/prostate-cancer/, or make an appointment with ScheduleNow with a primary care physician or urologist.

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