"We found something." Coming from a doctor, those three simple words were life-changing for 27 NEWSFIRST's Sam Dick.
"I was stunned," says Sam. "Within days of my recent diagnosis, I decided to make it public, so that I might spread the word about early detection, and the need to have annual prostate exams."
Sam is an avid athlete who trains nearly everyday for triathlons. He considers himself very healthy, and at 54 years old, he says he probably averages only one or two sick days a year.
Sam's wife, Noelle Dick, says Sam is in the best shape of his life. "You're talking about someone who works out 2 and 3 hours; biking, running, swimming; and loves it."
Sam's problem is not his fitness. He can control that aspect of his life, but he has no say in his family history or his age. His father, David Dick, discovered he had prostate cancer at age 63. Because of that, Sam says, his dad pushed him to have annual prostate exams.
"He wanted to make absolutely sure that you knew how important it was," stresses Sam, "and it's not something to put off."
Sam's father passed away last July after a 17 year fight against prostate cancer. A family history of the disease, especially a father or brother, makes it more likely one will get it. After the age of 50, it's estimated one out of every four men will get prostate cancer. Also, African-American men have a higher chance of getting the disease.
In his late forties, Sam started seeing Lexington urologist, Dr. Fred Hadley, for annual prostate exams. Each visit, he took blood to measure what is called a "PSA" level. PSA is a substance made by the prostate gland. A PSA number below 3 is considered normal for someone Sam's age.
Dr. Fred Hadley says, "PSA is not a cancer chemical. It's a normal chemical that's present. It's just the amount that gets your attention."
But for Sam, the level jumped from 2.8 to 4.9 in one year. His doctor was concerned, telling him a higher PSA does not mean cancer, but the sudden jump and higher number mean there's a greater chance of finding cancer.
"I had no symptoms," Sam explains, "But the jump in my PSA was a red flag." Next, Dr. Hadley did a biopsy and took tiny tissue samples from his prostate. He explained it was the only sure way to know if he had cancer. The result confirmed cancer cells in one of 12 biopsy specimens.
But there is hope. Dr. Hadley believes the cancer is curable because it was noticed at a very early stage.
"If the prostate cancer is just in the prostate gland itself," says Dr. Hadley, "and you treat the prostate, either with surgical removal or radiation, you've eliminated the disease entirely."
Sam has chosen to have surgery and remove his prostate. The decision means he will be off air from 27 NEWSFIRST for much of December. To spread the word about early detection, there is a special section on wkyt.com on prostate cancer. The section includes links to Sam's blog, a facebook page, facts about the disease, and places to get more information.