Baseball legend Cal Ripken, Jr. knows the life-saving power of early cancer detection. At age 59, the Hall of Famer was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Ripken’s cancer was caught early and after surgery, he is now cancer-free. He is sharing his story with the hope that he can influence others to take control of their own health.
“Sometimes, we as guys avoid that or think we’ll just go to the doctor when we need to,” Ripken told The Baltimore Sun. “I thought that maybe my story, as lucky and as great as it is as a happy ending, could encourage and maybe bring the awareness that you should get checked. You should go to the doctors. You should do all the things necessary so you can catch something like this early because when you do, you have a lot of options and it’s a good outcome.”
Before his cancer diagnosis, Ripken was not experiencing any unusual symptoms. Blood work done during a routine annual exam showed slightly elevated levels on a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. While the elevation could just have just been a result of age or activity level, Ripken decided not to ignore it and to see a urologist. Further testing showed a need for a biopsy, and that biopsy revealed that Ripken had early stage prostate cancer.
When caught at stage 1, the survival rate for prostate cancer is 99%. That number drops to 33% when prostate cancer is diagnosed at stage 4. Cal Ripken Jr.’s story reminds us how important it is to keep up with annual physical exams and screenings and to advocate for answers from your healthcare providers rather than dismissing health changes.
“We all know people that have had different cancers and you kind of wonder, how would you feel if it happened to you?” said Ripken. “I know what that feels like now.”
We are grateful for his willingness to empower others by sharing his cancer story.
- no noticeable symptoms; elevated PSA taken at annual physical