Paul Winner, a 50-year-old Long Island resident and former high school teacher, is lucky to have detected prostate cancer early. For nearly a decade, Winner didn’t see a doctor or get an annual physical. He kept in shape, ate well, and was otherwise quite healthy. Life seemed too busy, and he didn’t even think he might have such a serious condition.
Recently, Winner retired and finally got around to making an appointment with a primary care doctor, who identified a slightly elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) result, prompting a referral to Anthony Corcoran, MD, director of urologic oncology at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island.
An MRI and biopsy confirmed the results—Winner received a prostate cancer diagnosis in February 2019. The cancer was covering the entire prostate gland and would have likely spread if he had waited any longer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. About one in seven men receives a diagnosis of prostate cancer at some point in his lifetime.
After having a robotic prostatectomy in May 2019 and following recovery, Winner’s PSA levels are now undetectable. The youngest of four boys, Winner inspired his brothers and friends to get PSA tests and regular screenings following his diagnosis. “A lot of men aren’t good at going to the doctor; they think this sort of thing won’t happen to them,” says Winner. “I’ve learned you have to be diligent, even if you think you’re doing all the right things.”
PSA is a protein produced by the prostate that can be measured in the blood. PSA levels can be elevated in men with prostate cancer and is used in conjunction with a rectal exam to screen for the condition.
“PSA screening has been shown to improve the chance that we catch a prostate cancer at an early stage and has been clearly shown to improve the chance of cure,” says Dr. Corcoran. “Not every physician currently checks the PSA routinely for screening due to controversy surrounding guidelines, but time will tell that this was the wrong decision and that PSA screening is absolutely the right thing to do for otherwise healthy men.”
Doctors at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center advise men who are at an increased risk of prostate cancer, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men, to begin getting PSA tests at age 40.