Bob Tomyk, 71, who’s been clear of prostate cancer for three years, considers himself lucky.
“I was tested by accident,” he told Peace Arch News Tuesday.
Tomyk explained his long-term family doctor was physically testing him for prostate cancer on an annual basis. However, eight years before his diagnosis, he had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. British Columbia doesn’t cover routine PSA screenings under the medical services plan, and Tomyk, who lives in North Delta, recalled that his doctor said the test was “just a waste of money.”
Eventually, his family doctor retired and Tomyk found a new physician.
“He said, ‘you’re fine, you’re healthy,’” Tomyk said.
But when Tomyk asked the new doctor why he didn’t send him for a blood test for an existing cholesterol issue, “he got upset with himself for not thoroughly examining my medical records to see if I had this problem,” he said.
“He pulled out his requisition form for blood tests and madly checked everything off, including the PSA. When my PSA came back, it was high. A good PSA reading is one to four, mine was up at 16.”
The PSA test, Tomyk said, launched the medical investigation that ultimately resulted in the discovery of prostate cancer. Six months later, he underwent surgery to have it removed.
“It just happened at a time that was early enough that it didn’t spread.”
Tomyk is the newly elected chairman of the Surrey Prostate Cancer Support Group, which has been advocating the importance of getting tested for prostate cancer for more than 20 years. He replaces Leno Zecchel, who was chairman for 12 years. Zecchel has been prostate-cancer free since 1994.
Tomyk says not enough men are getting tested, because “men are scared to think they have cancer.”
He said men should make physical and PSA tests part of their regular physical examinations.
“Both of them are indicators of prostate cancer but not one will confirm. It’s a combination of both readings. It’s up to your doctor to decide where they stand as far as enlargement goes or PSA count.”
Tomyk said every man over the age of 50 should commence a PSA test for a reference indicator as they age.
“They should keep it personally. It should not be kept at the doctor’s office. Nowadays, doctors are changing so fast in our community and moving around. If you don’t have that record yourself, you won’t know what the test was three or four years ago.”
The Surrey Prostate Cancer Support Group meets once a month. The next meeting will held at Valley View Memorial Gardens (14644 72 Ave.) from 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 28. The meetings are for men impacted by prostate cancer and provide awareness, public education, advocacy, support and research into prevention, detection and treatment. The group is comprised of members from White Rock, Surrey, Tsawwassen, Ladner, North Delta, Cloverdale and Langley.
Neurologists, oncologists and other medical professionals attend the meetings to help facilitate the discussion.
“The other important thing is that the man’s partner, spouse… they are affected as well from prostate cancer,” Tomyk added.
“The effect on the man’s mental state and physical part of erectile dysfunction. We have speakers who are professional in that aspect as well.”
More information on the group, including meeting times and agendas, can be found at www.pccnsurrey.ca