By Sara Bondell - August 21, 2020
Major League Baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. has made a full recovery after a prostate cancer diagnosis this spring.
Ripken, who is about to turn 60, says he had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test during a routine checkup in February. His PSA was elevated, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer.
He had surgery in March and is now cancer free. While he initially wanted to keep his cancer private, Ripken says he now understands the importance of sharing his story.
“I thought maybe my story, as lucky as it is, could encourage or bring the awareness,” he said. “You should get checked. You should go to the doctors. You should do all the things necessary to catch this early.”
In 2018, the United States Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines that recommend men ages 55 to 69 have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits to decide if screening is right for them.
Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Genitourinary Oncology Program says this discussion is very important. The challenge, he says, is determining who would benefit from further evaluation or testing while at the same time helping men make an informed decision. While prostate cancer screenings can help identify and treat the potentially life-threatening disease, some prostate cancers will stay dormant or could take decades to become a problem.
“These cases do not need to be treated and men could have side effects from treatment such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction,” he said. “There are also the psychological effects associated with a false positive test, as over half of men who undergo a biopsy for an elevated PSA prove negative for cancer.”
The early warning signs for prostate cancer can vary, but in general it’s important for a man to seek medical attention for any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
- Pain or burning sensations during urination
- Blood in the urine
- Persistent pain in the lower back, pelvis or hips
- Painful ejaculation