Dear On the Fence,
I’m sorry to hear about your friend. It’s great, though, that he has inspired you to take a proactive approach to your health. Many men share your concerns about getting their prostate checked, but it’s important because prostate cancer—the second most common cancer in American men—is extremely treatable when caught in its early stages.
And the process we use for early detection isn’t nearly as bad as you think. Seriously.
There’s been some debate recently throughout the medical community about who exactly should have their prostate checked and when. That’s because it’s unclear if the benefits (e.g., early detection) of testing all men outweigh the risks (e.g., finding and treating a large number of low-risk, slow-growing cancers that likely wouldn’t have caused any issues during the patient’s lifetime).
So the very first thing you should do is speak with your urologist and weigh the pros, cons and uncertainties of a prostate test in a process we like to call "shared decision making." Together, you and your doctor can make a choice that’s right for you. This will be based on several factors, including your age, race, family history and health priorities.
Next, you and your doctor will either decide to move ahead with a prostate check or to hold off. If you do go ahead with it, don’t worry—the process is very simple.