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A new believer in early detection.

Last August, a newspaper ad for free prostate cancer screening at the Sat Eve Post Society's "Fitness Fair" caught the eye of Ken Kavenski's wife. She urged her 53-year-old husband to go.

"Naw," he told her, "I don't need to. I'll be getting a physical sometime soon anyway."

It was a typical male response, Kavenski now confesses. "Women are pretty good about having mammograms and pap smears once a year to protect against breast and cervical cancer," he says. "Men, however, tend not to get checked for prostate cancer-but we should."

Fortunately, Kavenski's wife did what caring wives are noted for: she cut out the ad and put it in her husband's briefcase. She may have saved his life.

"On that Friday, I happened to be on the west side, and I looked at my watch," he recalls. "The testing started at 2 p.m., and it was now 1:30. I thought, OK, I'll go. As a matter of fact, I was third in line. I had the rectal exam, and the doctor indicated he thought my prostate was a little enlarged. But we'd wait for the PSA test to come back."

Kavenski, however, couldn't wait. He saw his own doctor immediately on Monday morning. "He checked and said, yes, there was some swelling but probably not a problem," Kavenski says. "He wanted me to have a complete physical, anyway. I hadn't had one in five years. He also suggested that I have an ultrasound done.

"When the ultrasound turned out negative, the doctor said he didn't think there was a problem, just a hypertrophy or something," Kavenski says. "I felt pretty good about that, but then the following week I went in for my physical, and he had my PSA result. It was 13.1. Based on that, he said we ought to biopsy it."

Kavenski made an appointment for the-biopsy. The doctor called the next day, Kavenski remembers. "The doctor told me that it was a tumor and that it was malignant. He said the next step was to get a bone scan and a pelvic CAT scan to find out if the cancer had metastasized. He was able to schedule both the next day. We had a meeting with him that evening in his office to discuss the results. This was a pretty nerve-racking time for us.

"I was lucky," Kavenski admits. "Both scans were negative. I had the tumor removed, and the doctor believes he got it all. The tumor had reached the distal end of the prostate, but everything else was contained. That was in September. My first PSA was Dec. 1, and it was unreadable, less than .1. So, knock on wood.

"One of the scary things about this is I had no symptoms," Kavenski says. "OK, frequency of urination, urgency, but I've had that for 25 years. Absolutely no one's ever had that problem [prostate cancer] in my family until now. I felt good right up to the time it was discovered, and I feel great right now. It's hard to believe you have something inside you that's capable of killing you without having any symptoms."

Now, like Sen. Bob Dole, whose prostate cancer also was detected at a treatable stage, Kavenski has a missionary zeal to help prevent prostate cancer deaths. A recent Sunday morning found him "preaching" PSA testing to male choir members in the community room of the largest Presbyterian church in Indiana. He persuaded 46 men, including the minister, the Rev. Bill Enright, to be tested. A relatively young member of the congregation had recently died from prostate cancer, giving the church members an incentive for having the life-saving test.

Kavenski advises men to stay in shape. "I have been physically active for a long time but can't run anymore because of a football injury," he says. "I have a NordicTrac and a Nordic Chair, however, and I've used them every day of the week for the last three years. I jogged daily for 14 years prior to that. Being in good physical condition helped me tolerate the surgery very nicely. It helped me to get out of the hospital quicker. So, I recommend that everyone consider becoming active."

Kavenski received his second postsurgery PSA result in March. It was zero. "I guess you're never home free," he says, "but zero is what we want."
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Title Annotation:Ken Kavenski; diagnostic tests for prostate cancer
Author:Kreiter, Ted
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1993
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