"Friends" Don't Let Friends Skip Their Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

There has been plenty of talk about the reunion of the Friends cast earlier this month. Maybe you were a fan of the show during its original run and wanted to see how the actors had aged, or maybe you discovered it online and wanted to see something new. In any case, it was good to see your friends hale and hearty.

But then news broke this week that James Michael Tyler has advanced (Stage 4) prostate cancer. You may remember that Mr. Tyler played Gunther, the Central Perk manager who appeared in more episodes of Friends than anyone other than the Big Six. Call him The Magnificent Seventh.

So as I do anytime the chance arises, I remind you, or your partner, or your father, brother, uncle, our second-cousin-twice-removed to please get screened for prostate cancer (PCa). PCa is by far the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the USA, and the second leading cause of male cancer death.

The Prostate Specific Antigen blood test is still the most common test used in prostate cancer screening. It isn’t perfect, there are false positives and false negatives, but it is inexpensive, readily available, and when used intelligently to guide the patient-physician relationship it is useful in alerting to the possibility of prostate cancer. And there are lots of other associated lab tests such as Free PSA and Prostate Health Index (PHI) that can help make blood testing more specific.

Suppose you and your doctor decide a diagnostic biopsy is needed. There are techniques now that greatly reduce post-biopsy infection, once the biggest risk of the biopsy procedure. MRI studies can increase accuracy by pointing out suspicious areas to sample. And pathologists are great at making the correct diagnosis.

And if you wind up told you have prostate cancer? Treatment options abound – including no treatment in certain situations. And as in other cancers, the ability to test your DNA for abnormalities in both your cancer cells and in your non-cancer cells have lead to new treatment paradigms as well as assessment of the risk of prostate cancer in other family members.

If you are Black, your risk for prostate cancer death is even higher. US Too, the Chicago-based organization fighting prostate cancer (I am on the Board of Directors) has launched The Black Men’s Prostate Cancer Initiative. Check it out.

To all my friends with prostate cancer (and there are many) keep fighting the good fight. To the rest of you, black, white, or brown, with a family history of prostate cancer or without one, get screened.

Mr. Tyler, thank you for this opportunity for me to speak out once again. I wish you the best, and know that you have lots and lots of Friends!

The above is the opinion of the author and not necessarily UroPartners LLC or US Too.

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