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John Kerry and Prostate Cancer

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Updated October 31, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

John Kerry is a Democratic Senator of Massachusetts (as of 2011), but is probably best known as the Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election. Since being diagnosed with, undergoing treatment for, and pronounced cured of prostate cancer, Kerry also has become a spokesman for raising awareness for this disease, specifically among African-American men and low-income households.

Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

Sen. Kerry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2002. His annual checkup included a PSA test for older men to screen for prostate cancer. Though the PSA level was not high enough to indicate cancer, close observation of his medical history led his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, and his physician to investigate further. A rectal examination showed no prostate abnormalities or other findings that would indicate cancer. However, Kerry’s PSA levels had risen by 70 percent in two years, and although this level was still below the level of concern, the increase was enough to take a biopsy. Unfortunately, five of the samples taken came back positive for cancer, and a diagnosis of prostate cancer was given.

Kerry asked his physician many questions about prognosis, treatment options, timeframe, and what to expect. His father, who died in 2000 of prostate cancer, had radiation treatment near the end of his battle with the disease. Kerry chose to undergo surgery to remove his prostate entirely (radical prostatectomy). Within one month of diagnosis, he had the surgery performed and discovered that the cancer was confined to the left side of the prostate. The doctors were optimistic that the surgery would be a complete success and the risk of recurrence was minimal.

Spokesman for Prostate Cancer Awareness

Since his treatment in 2003, Kerry has been an outspoken proponent of prostate cancer awareness, research, and early screening and detection. His opinion on PSA testing speaks for itself: He has said he knows that the blood test caught the cancer early and allowed him to beat it completely. Kerry insists that men should get screened earlier than recommended if there is a family history of the disease, if they are African-American, or if their PSA has increased from previous tests. In 2009, along with other senators from California, Maryland, Illinois, and Louisiana, Kerry officially called upon federal agencies to increase funding for prostate cancer awareness and research.

Kerry’s Continuing Efforts After Recovering from Prostate Cancer

Though Kerry still actively serves in the Senate and in other political roles, he has continued to advocate for early detection and awareness of prostate cancer. Kerry even participates in fundraisers such as the Pan-Mass Bike-a-thon that covers over 110 miles between Sturbridge and Boston, Massachusetts. Being a prominent name and character at these events plays a huge role in bringing awareness to this disease. These events help men understand that prostate cancer can happen to anyone and that getting screened for prostate cancer early can greatly increase the chances of beating it.

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