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a man looking anxious with chars, tubes of blood, and cancer ribbons swirling around his head

Stats Angst: Waiting on Your Test Results

Unsurprisingly, given that I have prostate cancer and write about it, I get emails offering medical products and advice. One popped into my inbox just now and is from a doctor who writes for a British medical website. I won’t give her name as I’m going to be rude about what she has to say.

Don’t patronize us about medical tests

Her article is titled: Do medical test make you anxious? The piece features a picture of a beautiful young girl in her twenties looking pensive. I know young people get sick, but I have a feeling none of them will be reading this, which is clearly aimed at old trouts like me.

Here’s a snippet of what she has to say: Medical tests are a necessary part of health management. Doctors often do blood tests, screening, and scans as a way of ruling out conditions or looking for a conclusive diagnosis.

But many of us have experienced the anxious waiting period between testing and results, not knowing if symptoms are benign or very serious. For those already living with anxiety, this worry can be heightened.

To which I would reply, yes doc we know this, we live it every day, so please don’t talk to us like we are children. If you want to give us practical advice on how to cope with stress, then go right ahead but don’t patronize us.

Enter stats angst

I’ve heard what she’s referring to as Stats Angst and for those with prostate cancer, the stat that we are generally angsting about is that notoriously crude measurement: our PSA level.

Eighteen months ago, when I was first told I was part of the cancer club, the club that no one wants to join, my PSA stood at 5.03. Hormone therapy precipitated a plunge and within a month it was down to 2.61. Six months later it was 0.8 and following radiotherapy last fall, a test revealed it to be virtually undetectable at 0.07. All good until I went to see the doc last month. But before we get to that I want to pause and ask a question.

Do you struggle to find the right words?

When having a consultation with your doctor, do you ever struggle to choose the right words?

Having prostate cancer means my talk with medics usually revolves around human plumbing. Here’s the problem: If I talk about excreta or faeces, I sound like an uptight first-year medical student. If I talk about poop, I’m using baby talk and if I talk about shit, I’m swearing. Cancer, it’s not just your health you have to worry about, it’s your vocabulary too. But I’m guessing Americans have a more forthright approach to this and will just laugh at a coy Brit.

Talking of words, I’ve decided my least favorite sentence in the English language is: ‘I’m going to see my oncologist today.’

An unexpected PSA bounce

Back to Stats Angst: A week before seeing the oncologist in May, the vampires at the hospital, took blood and I was hoping my PSA level would be 0.03 or lower, which would classify it as undetectable.

No such luck, the Unwelcome Guest had other ideas and had bumped my PSA up to 0.1. I know that’s a small rise and doctors recognize something they call the PSA bounce after radiotherapy, with the numbers fluctuating, but frankly, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Hopefully, this will correct itself but if it were to continue on an upward trajectory and get anywhere near 2.0 then that would be a cause for concern.

Prostate cancer that comes back is called a recurrence and happens to 1 in 3 men after treatment for early prostate cancer, but as my treatment is on-going with hormone therapy still 18 months to run, we are ways away from that just yet.

Who else experiences stats angst?

My next appointment with the oncologist is in September and right now I’m enjoying the summer and our family is about to go on vacation, but what will the stats on my Stats Angst chart look like towards the end of August? Pretty much off the scale, I’d imagine. Anyone got advice for an anxious, hard-bitten, sixty-four-year old cynic?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • davidd
    5 months ago

    Thanks Jim for your very honest post. I’m in a position of having chosen to cease all treatment because for spiritual reasons I am sure I am cancer-free. So my 3 monthly tests are a bit important. “The time is now, and now is sacred”…even more true when you’ve had a diagnosis. So let nothing spoil the peace and gladness of each day. I know it’s another site but there’s a lot on my thread “Diet and Spirituality” under my username Barcud on Prostate Cancer UK. A few folk get offended by spiritual issues – not my intention. I’m living it and I share it with those who want to know. Peace be with you Jim, as you wait your next result – David

  • sevensix
    5 months ago

    Thank you for a speedy reply! No pain other than a bleeding ulcer and that, too, is on the mend. About two weeks ago the effects of Lupron seem to be quickly diminishing much to my pleasure after ten months of crap. On these two points: 1) I am fine, at peace with my condition. 2) You are right – dispense with Dr. Google and go for a good book and a productive life capitalizing on strength, satisfaction, and success. Quality of life is kicking into overdrive now but I am leery of Lupron for any therapy hereafter. Sometimes I need a little encouragement and you did just that for me. Thanks.

  • sevensix
    5 months ago

    Ah, rising PSA after treatment? After surgery PSA took off like a rocket, and then again following IMRT and ADT, another moon shot. Predicting the future outcomes with prostate cancer is perilous because the route of affliction is not straight and narrow with endless trails and destinations. IMHO a PSA bounce is not supported when aggressive cells are counted in the matrix. Returning to Lupron therapy is not my idea of quality of life when Lupron is not a medical cushion of comfort and assurance hoped for during initial treatment addressing a complex disease eager for your life. Stats angst? Maybe. Our med group provides data results via email providing a topic for research and discussion ahead of docs appt to know what I already know although doc will put a spin on it to ease the discovery. I am open to being proved wrong in my assessments.
    2nd PSA this October. Field report to follow.

  • Jim Preen moderator author
    5 months ago

    Good morning sevensix, interesting that you have a med group as you call it, what form does that take? I’m not on Lupron but something similar and while it’s tolerable as you say it’s doesn’t provide a perfect quality of life. Good luck with the PSA in October. All the best Jim

  • sevensix
    5 months ago

    Hello Jim;
    Primary care happens at a small clinic specializing Internal Medicine under the umbrella of a regional health care system. While I had the opportunity to continue a three month Lupron injection I opted to wait out the summer until October for PSA and imaging scheduling. Not happy with Lupron but a summer off from meds gives me a break to collect my senses before deciding any continued treat- ment. It is now a quality of life issue.

  • j600
    5 months ago

    Yes I have advice for you. How do you feel right now? Are you in pain? Other than the side effects of your radiotherapy is the quality of your life diminished? You seem like you’re mostly doing just fine other than worrying about the future. We’re not out of the woods, it’s true. That’s over. We go back and get tested over and over and it’s a good thing we can do that. And there’s no end to the testing as long as we live. My advice is enjoy today, and your vacation, and forget the medical websites in favor of better reading choices. Onward!

  • Jim Preen moderator author
    5 months ago

    Hey j600 thank you for your excellent advice. Grab the day! And I fully intend to and don’t worry I don’t spend my time gazing at medical websites. Jim

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