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Anoop Dogra - I Had No Risk Factors

When I turned 40, my doctor included the PSA test as part of my regular check-up. I had no family history of prostate cancer, no risk factors, and as far as I knew, 40-year old men weren’t diagnosed with the disease. That’s why, when I got my test results back and the PSA was slightly elevated, it came as a surprise.

Over the course of the next year, my doctor monitored my PSA levels. They were rising gradually and eventually, after 3 or 4 PSA tests, we decided it was time for a biopsy.  The results of the biopsy confirmed what my doctor suspected. At 41, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I had been watching the numbers rise. I knew these consistent results couldn’t be written off as a false positive. Despite my attempts at mental preparation, the news was still a shock. There was a sense of disbelief. When you hear about men being diagnosed with prostate cancer – they’re never 40. I was supposed to be too young to have prostate cancer.

After my wife and I had a few weeks to process this news, we decided to tell our 4 children. I delayed telling the rest of my family because I didn’t want them to worry. It was a very gradual process for me. I eventually told some of my co-workers a few weeks before the surgery.  

Everyone I told was shocked. Similar to my own reaction, they couldn’t believe that I, at 41, had prostate cancer. What was surprising was that everyone seemed to know someone who had been affected by the disease; everyone had a dad, or uncle, or friend who had been diagnosed. It quickly became apparent to me that this wasn’t an uncommon disease - I was one of many men, despite not fitting the age profile.

I read a lot about my treatment options and talked things through with my wife and my doctor. Doing nothing wasn’t an option – I was too young. Ultimately I decided on having a radical prostatectomy.  In hindsight, I don’t think I fully comprehended all of the long–term implications of surgery. I wish I had found more men to talk to about the decision. I found a lot of resources, but there’s a big difference between reading about it and talking things out with someone who has been through it. That’s partially why I want to tell my story, to let men know that they are not alone, and to encourage them to start talking about prostate cancer.

My surgery was over 3 years ago, so everything is still pretty new. I am slowly getting more comfortable with the idea that everything is fine – that the cancer is gone. Right now, I receive a PSA tests every 6 months. There’s a lot of anxiety that leads up to that appointment, but this fall I am switching over to annual PSA tests.  I consider that a significant milestone.  

I’m a big advocate for men having a PSA test done at 40. If it hadn’t been for that simple blood test, I would have had no way of knowing I had cancer. I had no symptoms. What I learnt was that getting elevated PSA results doesn’t necessarily mean the next step is a biopsy or surgery. You watch that number with your doctor. You eliminate the probability of a false positive. That way, you can make informed decisions about your health.

Prostate cancer will change your life. Men need to go into treatment knowing that things will be different.  But it’s important to stay positive, this disease is a lot more common then people think it is. When you start talking about it, you find out that a lot of people have it; you don’t have to go through this in isolation. Life goes on and you will adapt.

Anoop Dogra

Relevant Links:
Get more information about the PSA test
Learn more about prostate cancer risk factors
Find out what's happening during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate Cancer Canada Releases New Recommendations

Prostate Cancer Canada's vision is to be a global leader in the fight against prostate cancer. Your support will help us achieve this ambitious goal.

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