Remember Our Sons—and Brothers

Remember Our Sons—and Brothers

So many health conditions are hereditary, for example I was the first out of 12 grandchildren of the fourth generation to get dry macular degeneration, and I have a nephew who’s the first of the fifth generation. (And when I was diagnosed, the medical “wisdom” was that it wasn’t hereditary (that’s totally changed). And prostate cancer (PC) is no exception – for all our sons and brothers the risk of getting it is slightly more than double the risk for those without any family history.

And it is a slightly higher risk for those who have a brother with it than those who have a father with it.

Family risk of prostate cancer?

So if we do the math, the risk is 1 out of eight getting prostate cancer if you don’t have a relative with it, which means our sons and brothers, at double the risk, stand a one out of four chance of getting PC, not very good odds when we’re talking cancer of any sort.
But the odds for his getting it from ages 39 to 50 are now about 1 out of 39 for those without a father or brother with it but at double the odds for our sons and brothers getting it drops to half of that or about 1 out of 20. And as I read the comments on ProstateCancer.Net, I’m surprised at the number of guys younger than 60 with it.

When I was diagnosed 4 ½ years ago, not knowing yet that it was inheritable, I talked to my son and suggested he mention the prostate cancer family history to his doctor and start getting his PSA checked yearly. I’m happy to report he’s doing just that and having all the “usuals”—PSA, DRE and questions about pain, blood, etc. that could be a sign of PC. (He’s a retired Air Force pilot, and one of the good things about the military and VA doctors is they do what is currently recommended, but they don’t try to do extra testing.) But when I suggested this to my son, he was going on 46, and I didn’t think this would really matter for a few more years, but it would get him in the habit of staying on top of it.

Early diagnosis is key

But the key point to get across is that the earlier all cancers are caught, the higher the likelihood of getting it quickly, more easily, and totally. (When I meet and read about guys who are diagnosed with Stage 4 PC, tears come to my eyes, and I realize how lucky I am that they caught mine early, and I wasn’t even given a rating for what stage it was in it was so early.)

I also want to get across how easy it is to be tested. For me, when I had blood drawn for cholesterol, etc., the needle was already in and they drew a little more for the PSA. And I doubt anyone who’s old enough to get PC hasn’t had a DRE, which, while I don’t jump up and down to have another one (and one of the advantages of a prostatectomy is I won’t), it’s definitely one of the easiest tests to have.

As a side note to this, my urologist who detected my prostate cancer told me that in all the years he’s been practicing as a urologist he only found one case of prostate cancer with the DRE, and that was in residency. All the others he found via PSAs.

And now, for your brother

And I know the feeling of some of you—“You don’t know my brother. He’s never listened to me.” I have an 80-year-old brother who’s 7 years older than me, and I can fully appreciate that. But on another disease that to me is even worse than prostate cancer, I got in both his face and his wife’s for about a year until he went and got tested. Unhappy to say he has that disease, but the doctors are on top of it and treating him well.

Get in your brother’s face if needed, and enlist parents, siblings, and whoever else can help get him to recognize the seriousness of PC because if not caught early, as I think you all know, it’s VERY serious.

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