Why the PSA exam needs to stay

| October 20, 2011

StethoscopeJim LaBarbara’s new autobiography, “The Music Professor,” has a section about my dad.

LaBarbara said that Big Joe McNay “was bigger than life. He was friends with everyone from (Johnny) Bench and Pete (Rose) to the big politicians. I think he introduced me to half the people in town, everyone seemed to like him.”

I didn’t like dad; I loved him. I learned how to deal with people from watching the master – a master who died at age 59 of prostate cancer. PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) tests were not common when dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992.

A world famous physician was in dad’s inner circle, and dad went to him for regular checkups. No one ever thought to include the PSA exam. Dad was a former athlete in tremendous health, worked out seven days a week and enjoyed every moment of life.

Dad fought prostate cancer with a courage that amazed everyone. A tall and powerful man, he went from 228 pounds to 140 pounds, but kept fighting to the end.

It was not unusual to hear the bones in his ribs and legs snap as the cancer ate them away. Painful as it was, he never gave up.

Prostate cancer was a battle he should not have had to fight. A simple PSA exam would have saved his life. If he had the PSA exam, he might have lived to meet the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who came into the family after his death.

His death made me a zealot for getting my own PSA exams and encouraging my friends to do the same. Several of my friends have been saved by early detection. Now a panel of bureaucrats, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, has called PSA unnecessary. I would like to have the members of that task force spend 15 minutes going through what dad went through for 15 months. They might have a different view of the PSA test.

It is easy to see what is driving the task force: money. A ruling of this type makes it easier for health insurance companies to deny coverage for PSA exams in the future. The PSA is a simple blood test. It is not invasive, painful or particularly expensive.

If you are wondering where you have heard of the U.S. Preventive Services Task, it may be from 2009 when it recommended that women under 50 not get routine mammograms. Although a recent USA Today article found that mammograms at age 40 reduce the risk of dying by 15 percent, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force decided they were unnecessary. Public outcry kept the task force’s mammogram recommendations from being implemented. A lot of lives were saved. Now that same form of outrage is needed to stop the panel from eliminating PSAs.

Reading the “Music Professor” brought me back to the days when my father was still around. Even without my personal connection to LaBarbara, it is a fascinating read. It is a first-rate history of the rock ’n’ roll era of the 1960s and 1970s, and gives behind the scenes details about sports personalities who were part of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine era.

LaBarbara came to fame at a time when disc jockeys, such as Wolfman Jack, Dick Clark and Alan Freed, were often more popular than the performers. LaBarbara was named one of the top 40 radio personalities of all time and is in the Radio/Television/ Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

LaBarbara operated out of WLW in Cincinnati. Johnny Bench was the best man in his wedding, and he was connected to every celebrity and influential person in that city. LaBarbara met or interviewed every musical act you could think of, such as Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Supremes. Just like my dad was, LaBarbara is a first-rate storyteller. As his book noted, LaBarbara and my dad were close friends. I would love to see what they would have done together if dad were still alive.

When Michael Milken was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years after my father was, he devoted most of his personal fortune and energies to finding a cure. The research he funded and his advocacy of PSA exams has made a big difference. Like breast cancer, people fighting prostate cancer learned that early detection is the key. And now, like those fighting breast cancer, people fighting prostate cancer are now fighting with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

A fight that is, literally, life and death.

Don McNay, who lives in Richmond Ky., an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at www.donmcnay.com.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Don McNay
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the best sellling author of the book Wealth Without Wall Street: A Main Street Guide to Making Money.

McNay is an award winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group (www.mcnay.com) which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianship’s. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.

Don has appeared on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and over 100 radio and television programs.

McNay has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. Don is a Quarter Century member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

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