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For Father's Day, get yourself a checkup

By Andrew Webster, Special to CNN
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1359 GMT (2159 HKT)
Andrew Webster urges all dads to mark Father's Day with a checkup.
Andrew Webster urges all dads to mark Father's Day with a checkup.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Father of one, with one on the way, urges dads to get a checkup
  • Government guidelines advise against routine prostate cancer screenings
  • Andrew Webster says the PSA test saved his life

Editor's note: Father's Day, June 17, marks the end of Men's Health Week. For more information on prostate cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute.

(CNN) -- I am extremely blessed.

My unborn son, Claiborne, is due just before Father's Day this year. His pending birth motivated me to get an annual physical six months ago, a checkup I had avoided for three years.

When my physician, Dr. Kenneth Kennedy, asked whether I wanted a prostate-specific antigen test, I agreed, despite the $150 out-of-pocket charge.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises against routine prostate cancer screenings. The debate over the necessity of these tests is ongoing in research labs and doctor's offices across America.

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Despite the controversy, a good friend of mine, who also happens to be a doctor, told me to always have my PSA levels screened after age 40. His belief is that there are still many men who are diagnosed in their 40s and that if executive health programs include the PSA test for men beginning at that age, then the test should be done, regardless of government guidelines and/or family history of cancer.

Prostate cancer screening remains common

My PSA test results were higher than normal, not indicating certain cancer but suggesting the need for a biopsy, which I chose to do right away.

It was an ordinary workday when I got a call from Dr. Haden Lafaye. I tried joking about his Hai Karate aftershave but was cut short: My biopsy results had come back positive for high-risk prostate cancer.

I'm a 47-year-old husband and father of one -- with another on the way -- and the results came as a complete shock. I had no symptoms, and up until this point, I thought I was healthy as a horse.

How was I going to tell my pregnant wife that I had prostate cancer?

After tests, blood draws and CT scans, my urologist, Dr. Surena Matin, told me that my cancer was localized, and we scheduled my da Vinci Prostatectomy -- a minimally invasive treatment for prostate cancer in which the surgeon uses a "robot" as the vehicle to remove the prostate.

My incredible team of doctors diagnosed the cancer so early and did such an expert job removing my prostate that I didn't need any additional cancer treatment. No radiation. No hormone therapy. I was cancer-free.

I was stunned.

This Father's Day, I urge dads everywhere to schedule an annual checkup. The dads I know are always there for their families -- sometimes, at the expense of their own health.

The men I know don't like talking about doctors and checkups, especially when it comes to an illness that can profoundly affect their masculinity. I'm hoping that by sharing my story, I can change perceptions about prostate cancer and reinforce the fact that we are all responsible for our own well-being.

In my case, if I hadn't visited my doctor six months ago for an annual checkup, I believe that I would not have as many Father's Days to spend with my wonderful family and new son.

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