Sixty-three year old Jim Burnett has been an athlete all his life. He eats well and keeps himself in pretty good shape. He says he felt bulletproof, which is why the thought of getting tested for prostate cancer never entered his mind.
"I’ve done triathlons. I was in the army, just an athlete all my life and always felt like those kinds of situations were for other people, until it happened to me."
Burnett went in for tests after noticing he was urinating much more frequently than normal. He was positively diagnosed with prostate cancer, something that took him by surprise. Doctor Brian Miles of the Methodist Hospital says although one out of every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the vast majority survive.
"Yes, most people do. It’s a very curable disease when found early. In some circumstances, men have a cancer that’s not very aggressive and you don’t even have to treat it, but you can’t make the decision until you find it."
There are two ways to test for prostate cancer: one of them is easy, the other men may not think is so easy.
"There’s the blood test called prostate specific antigen or PSA that helps as the most common way to find prostate cancer and the other way is using a rectal exam where a finger goes into the man’s anus and we feel the prostrate through the rectal wall. Ten to twenty percent of cancers are found that way."
Dr. Miles says African Americans have higher rates of prostate cancer and also have higher rates of death. Most men are urged to get tested at around fifty years of age, but for black men, Dr. Miles recommends testing at forty. The tumors can be treated with radiation or in many cases the prostrate must be removed. That surgery is now made even simpler with the help of high tech robotic arms.
"It’s much like scientists use when they’re working with nuclear material. You’ve seen these robotic hands inside a protected room they can pick stuff up and move it all around. That’s what I’m doing in the body I’m using those sort of robotic hands in place of my hands."
Jim Burnet had his surgery this summer and is already getting back to normal.
"I feel very good right now. I started exercising a few weeks ago and I’m in as good of shape as I was before the surgery."
He doesn’t think he’s bulletproof anymore, but for now he’s definitely cancer-free.