Check Up 13: Prostate cancer survivor urges others to get screening

Randy Danko was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013. (WTHR)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The Check Up 13 emphasis for September 2019 is prostate cancer. It's a diagnosis Randy Danko never expected to receive and he remembers the range of emotions when he heard the news.

"Angry, sad, depressed, scared ,it’s a sacred event," Danko said. "Those are all feelings that go with confronting your mortality."

Danko, now 63, decided to get educated about the disease and treatment options. He learned that while one in six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their life time, many times it's not deadly. He learned that age is a risk factor. The older you are, the higher your risk. About one in 100,000 men under the age of 40 are diagnosed with prostate cancer. But for men ages 60 to 69, the prostate cancer rate jumps to 1 in every 14 men.

Danko's cancer was detected through a blood test. His PSA or prostate-specific antigen levels were creeping up over the years. But by 2015 the rate of change was a warning sign for his physicians at St. Vincent. Ultimately they ordered a biopsy and learned the Danko had an aggressive cancer.

"Unfortunately the cancer diagnosis forced me to get up close and personal and intimate with my mortality and my potential death" Danko said.

He worked with his physicians to weigh his options. Watch and wait, radiation or surgery. He opted for robotic surgery.

"When you are looking at the possibility of extending your lif without a whole lot of side effects, I had the prostate removed," he said. "Everything seems to be working fine at this point, no detectable cancer. I cross my fingers with each passing year that that remains true."

Doctors say his prognosis is promising, and Danko encourages other men to get the screening and know your status.

"We have to live our lives most consistent with who we are. If you need to fight your disease, fight it. If you need to learn more about it, learn more about it. Whatever you decide and whoever you are you have to live with the consequences," he said. "What I can tell you is, its a simple test get it tested, get more information so that you can make a more informed decision along with who you are. It's the best way to get ahead of a really nasty prostate cancer diagnosis that if you wait too late, you are basically screwed."

Men with a single, first-degree relative — father, brother or son — with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease, while those with two or more relatives are nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed. The risk is highest in men whose family members were diagnosed before age 65.

African-American men are 56 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men and nearly 2.5 times as likely to die from the disease.

There are about 250,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and a non-smoking man is more likely to develop prostate cancer than colon cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, and kidney cancer combined.

Prostate cancer is generally a slow-growing cancer and nearly 100 percent of men whose prostate cancer is detected before it spreads to other parts of the body are disease-free after five years.The key is to know your status.

To learn more about the St. Vincent Check Up 13 Free Prostate Screening, click here.

To qualify you must be 40/+ and have not had the screening in the last 12 months. You must be an Indiana resident and register by midnight EST Sept. 13, 2019.