NEW YORK--Michael Korda, best-selling author and editor-in-chief and vice president of Simon and Schuster, had never heard of PSA until a routine test showed that his was elevated; he had never thought about prostate cancer as something that could happen to him. After all, he was asymptomatic, a "fanatic exerciser," had given up smoking 20 years ago, and ate carefully.
"I approached what is now the number two (and will shortly be the number one) killer of men among cancers in total ignorance at the age of 61," he said at a media briefing given by the American Cancer Society and the Cancer Research Institute.
His ignorance of the disease was not an exception, he said. "Men are really in the dark about prostate cancer. If men knew half as much about prostate cancer as their wives know about breast cancer, then 41,000 American men a year would not be dying from the disease."
He pointed out that women's magazines are replete with articles about breast cancer, and even the least sophisticated woman probably knows about breast self-examination and the need for annual check-ups.
Consequently, he said, "although breast cancer once was a guilty, shameful secret that people died of, it is now an extremely well-known and well-publicized disease, and it is being treated very differently than it was 15 to 20 years ago." He stressed that prostate cancer needs some of that same kind of attention.
"The most important things we can do," he said, "are to make men realize how widespread the disease is, how dangerous it is, and, finally, how easy it is to cope with if they have a yearly physical examination (including a PSA)."
Mr. Korda has helped do just that by recounting his own battle with the disease in his best-selling book Man to Man: Surviving Prostate Cancer.