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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Is Your “Check Engine” Light On?

It pays to check early and often

Published: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 09:30

A government task force recently proclaimed that the prostate scientific antigen (PSA) test need not be administered to detect cancer. The report indicates that the results of surgery can result in incontinence, sexual dysfunction, heart problems, and even death.

Men for years have had this test, and for many it has resulted in a new lease on life when early-stage cancer is detected and cured. Odds are that one man in six will develop prostate cancer—not very good odds. Although it advances slowly, prostate cancer is still very much a killer.

For years men have had a PSA test usually at the time of an annual physical. If the readings are within an acceptable range, no action is taken. However, if the readings begin to rise on each subsequent exam, further testing and perhaps a biopsy may be warranted.

The results of the PSA test remind me of the “check engine” light on our car dashboards. When the light appears, we have no idea what it means, so we take the car to an expert who performs a series of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the problem. Something similar occurs with the PSA test. Until we submit to further testing, we have no idea what the increased readings on our PSA signify.

Several years ago my PSA test indicated a slight increase in the numbers. As a result, my doctor suggested that I have some further tests. Those tests revealed that two biopsies came back positive for cancer. After researching the various options for more than two months, I opted for robotic surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Physicians there are the pioneers in this type of surgery, and men come from all over the world for the operation—one came as far away as Antarctica. The results of my surgery indicated that my Gleason score (a gauge on how fast the cancer might spread) was a six, meaning that I had experienced the beginning stages of cancer. The surgery was painless—I went home the next day—and in less than a month, I resumed my daily five-mile runs. Since my surgery, which was four years ago, all systems are “go,” and I have returned to my normal lifestyle.

June 2, 2012, was the fourth anniversary of my surgery, and my PSA test continues to be 0.0. On that date I will be having lunch with my surgeon, Dr. James Peabody, and my nurse, Andrea Simone. Yes, we celebrate this anniversary every year. As such, I would suggest that just as we investigate our “check engine” light on our cars, we should continue to “check our prostate numbers.” Who doesn’t want a smooth-running body? Get the test! Your body engine is similar to the car’s—no one wants to experience a “recall.”



About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


PSA Test


I had a similar experince almost 13 years ago.

I chose surgery and all went well. I was lucky in having one of the best surgeons in Boston. During an annual visit after surgery, I asked him what would have happened if I decided not to have surgery back then? He held up 5 fingers and said that was how long I would have survived! So I am now on my 8th "free" year. 

Thank you, Dr. Althausen (since retired).


Randy Craig