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To Test or Not to Test the Prostate

Should men get a blood test to check for prostate cancer?
ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY -- One of the world's richest men drew attention to prostate cancer, when he revealed he'll  start undergoing treatment for the disease, but not until July.  Doctors say at 81-year-old Warren Buffet can afford to wait , but that's not usually  the case for younger men.

"It was like somebody,  when you're not looking,  just taking and punching you in the stomach.  You feel like you have a death sentence,  you really truly do," says 53-year-old Ron Perretta, of Altoona, describing his reaction to a prostate cancer diagnosis.

 According to Blair Medical Associates Urologist Dr. Henry Wong,  "a younger male with a diagnosis of prostate cancer tends to be a little more aggressive."

Ron's diagnosis followed a PSA blood test which showed very highly levels of a biological marker for prostate cancer and led to a biopsy. 

"My options were pretty slim being that i was so young,  which was removal and that's what we did," he remembers.

Ron, who owns Professionals Auto Body in Blair County, decided to go to Johns Hopkins University Hospital for robotic surgery in January.  Doctors haven't recommended any further treatment.

He's a strong believer in the PSA  blood test.  "You've got to have yearly PSA tests," he says.  "Some people say two years, some say 3 years. Within a year,  I was diagnosed after a blood test."

But PSA tests are controversial.  A federal government task force recommends against the PSA test saying there's no proof it saves lives overall.  And the American Cancer Society  says research has not yet proven that the benefits of testing outweigh the harms of testing and treatment.

Dr. Wong says he understands both sides of the issue and advices, "if you're concerned about prostate cancer,  you should see somebody to talk about  the risks and benefits of screening,  to talk about treatment and diagnosis,  and the possibility of over-treatment and over-diagnosis."

Ron's glad he requested a PSA blood test as part of his regular physical and happy that his most recent screening went well.

"Basically they were able to tell me that I  no longer have cancer,  which is just an incredible, incredible phone call," he says.
 
Specific recommendations regarding PSA screening vary,  but there's general agreement that men should be told about the potential risks and benefits  before being tested.
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