Robert Hess calls himself the “accidental prostate cancer survivor.” It’s a small twist of fate that got him the correct diagnosis, and it’s why he’s trying to spread the word about early detection, at least partially through the brightly-wrapped MX-5 that he’s going to be taking across the country this summer.
“I’m a 15-year prostate cancer survivor, and I’m here because I took this funky little PSA blood test and it showed I had an elevated PSA level,” the Manhattan Beach, Calif., resident explains. “PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen; it shows up in a blood test, and if it’s elevated, it’s an indicator that you may have prostate cancer. It’s not absolute, but it’s a pretty strong indicator. I survived that, and I’m kind of an analytical guy, and I looked at all my past PSA tests and I said, ‘Should I have known this?’ I took all that data, dropped it into an Excel spreadsheet, put a trend line on it and, lo and behold, I could see the increase from year to year. Then I did a little research and basically 240,000 guys a year are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and somewhere between 28,000 and 29,000 men every year die from the disease. Most often its because they don’t know they have it early enough for effective treatment. Prostate cancer doesn’t really have any symptoms until it’s advanced.”