A patient and friend who was 49 asked me at a party when he should have his prostate checked. I said that the blood work and exam could be done in less than five minutes. I told him he could come by anytime at the end of his work-day through my office’s back door, and I’d do the exam for free. He said that he was having no symptoms. I said that having no symptoms is irrelevant. He then told me he had had a colonoscopy and asked if that checked the prostate. I said no, that was a different organ. He said, like most people, “Isn’t prostate cancer a disease of old men?” I said, “No,” and mentioned that Frank Zappa died in his 50s, three years after the diagnosis of prostate cancer, adding, “It can be a painful death.”, I said making the point that it would be prudent for him, at age 49, to be checked. My friend then said, “But Frank Zappa had a bad lifestyle.” I replied that lifestyle was irrelevant as a risk factor for prostate cancer.
In the matter of a two-minute conversation with this college-educated friend, he had verbalized almost all the half-truths regarding prostate cancer. He confirmed to me yet again why prostate cancer is often times diagnosed late, and revealed to me another damaging half-truth I’d never heard before: the “But I don’t have a bad lifestyle” objection to having a rectal exam.