Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The (digital) indignity of it all.

If you are squeamish about medical stuff, you may not want to continue reading. If you are female, this is going to have some male stuff in it so … and if you are male then it’s going to have some … I guess nobody should read it but I’ll write anyway.

Today was my annual physical, which for the most part is pretty routine. Weight 173. Height 6’-1/2”. OK on both counts. Blood pressure OK. Blood work underway so we’ll know soon about those pesky things called lipids and LDL etc.

Lots of questions with mostly negative answers, which is good.

Why write about it?

My father has had one bout of prostate cancer which he survived but the treatment wasn’t much fun and may have caused some additional problems. His PSA count is up again but they are watching it. By the way he is 87.

Needless to say with my fathers history and an uncle who also had prostate cancer, this is something I take seriously. And for those men in the audience you know what that means. The euphemism is a digital exam and has nothing to do with computers or any electronic device.

My guess is, this part of the prostate screening is at least akin (I’m not saying equal to) the mammogram and Pap smear our wives have to endure once a year or so.
What makes mine slightly awkward yet in a strange way not, my physician is a woman. Several years ago I felt like my primary care doctor wasn’t doing much and my wife suggested I try hers, which in this case was a woman. Initially I felt strange – still do sitting there in the little bitty gown thing they give you that ties in the back … you know what I mean?

But now after a few years I’m pretty used to it. And I guess my wife – along with most other women have been having to … well you know … do their thing with male doctors … so in some small way, it’s the least I can do.

My doctor is thorough; I think she really cares about my health and that of all her patients. She doesn’t rush; she is on time etc. so I gained by switching doctors. As I age and am likely to have more concerns, she will have some history with me, which might make things easier in the long run.

The point of this is – if you are a guy, bend over and get it over with.

An added comment: Normal PSA levels are 4 but my doctor said she watches for increases in PSA even if the numbers stay below normal. Last week she examined a guy and his PSA was 1.8 which is well below normal (good) but he had a small nodule on his prostate and it was cancerous. So the numbers don’t lie, they just don’t always tell the whole story. It also points up the importance of the old fashioned but slightly uncomfortable way of having this checked.

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