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Jerry Howarth: Detecting Prostate Cancer Early Was The Best Call I Ever Made

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Jerry Howarth, in the radio booth, is using his well-known voice to speak up about prostate cancer. (Photo: Toronto Blue Jays)

By Jerry Howarth, the announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays

I have enjoyed living and working in Toronto for the past 35 years, calling Blue Jays games across our great country.

But I have also enjoyed just as much -- thanks to an invitation I accepted from my uro-oncologist Dr. Robert Nam -- sharing my story during the month of Movember in hopes of helping other men realize how valuable early detection is in fighting prostate cancer at the most treatable stages.

I enjoy my privacy, and might not have said anything about my upcoming prostate cancer surgery until I read a gentle and unassuming email request from Dr. Nam. In it, he asked me to share my story, to bring attention to the value of just how sophisticated MRIs are in finding that "hidden cancer," which, once found, can be treated properly and save lives. Like mine.

I used to think that MRI stood for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Now I know through personal experience that MRI really stands for Most Revealing Investigation -- an investigation that not only found advanced cancerous cells in my prostate gland, but a small tumour growing in there as well. I feel lucky and blessed to have had this kind of help in finding my cancer, after a previous biopsy four and a half years ago failed to show any cancer at all.

My advice to other men? "Just do it," as the Nike commercials have noted for years!

PSA testing is vital, too, and I started PSA screening about 10 years ago. Numbers were low until about five years ago when they advanced to four -- a cause for concern. This led to the first biopsy, which found nothing. Later, when my numbers continued to grow to 5 and 5.5, my family physician in Etobicoke, Dr. James Choe, referred me to Dr. Nam at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where I continued to have PSA blood work. When the PSA numbers advanced to six, then eight, then 10, it was time for my MRI, as noted by Dr. Nam.

This MRI was so significant, and led to a second biopsy that found the cancer and the tumour. This has led to my upcoming surgery to remove my cancerous prostate gland and the tumour.

I had no symptoms at all over the past 10 years, and while I still feel very good to this very day, thankfully -- through this early detection -- I have been able to keep my cancer at the Stage 1 level and not have it advance any further.

I wanted to use my voice and my 35-year platform calling Blue Jays games to make my prostate cancer story as well-known as possible, and to show the value of PSA blood work and biopsies. But even more importantly, I wanted to use my voice to help people appreciate the fact that MRIs are so sophisticated today, and how they are a blueprint for a doctor's success in treating prostate cancer patients like myself.

My advice to other men? "Just do it," as the Nike commercials have noted for years! Get your early detection started with all of the above. It certainly has helped me, and has maybe even saved my life, when I think of what may have happened had I ignored all of these wonderful opportunities to make a difference in my life. And now, perhaps, a difference in yours. Get screened. You'll be very happy you did.

If you have questions about PSA screening or prostate cancer, please speak to your family doctor.

Read more men's health tips from Sunnybrook experts at health.sunnybrook.ca

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