Jason Scratch encourages fellow dads to self-advocate for their health and get screened for prostate cancer.
Jason Scratch has always had plenty to live for. As a former oncology nurse and now, a lawyer, he’s enjoyed career success and his passion for marathon running keeps him occupied in his off time. But when Scratch’s daughter was born three years ago, his life took on new meaning.
As a new parent in his 40s, Scratch believed closely monitoring his health and staying in top shape to keep up with a small child had to become a priority. More so than most men his age, he was already keenly aware of the importance of taking care of his body. Scratch’s experience as a nurse, coupled with a lifetime spent helping his mother navigate her health care needs (she was left disabled after a childhood bout of polio), made him hyper-aware of the necessity of regular screening and self-advocating within the system.
When he was 44, shortly after the birth of his daughter, Scratch successfully lobbied to get his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels tested, despite the general recommendation that testing is only necessary for men over 50. Scratch did not have any symptoms, but he wanted to be proactive for his own peace of mind, knowing that prostate cancer often doesn’t present with any symptoms and is the fastest growing cancer among men.
“I’ve learned that you have to advocate for yourself and look out for your own best interests,” Scratch says. “When I got to be in my forties, I began to talk to my doctors about colon cancer and prostate health.”
The results of that first test showed normal PSA levels, but when Scratch got tested the following year, his levels were on the rise. Last year, at age 46, his PSA count was even higher. Scratch and his doctors knew it was time to take action. Scratch met with urologist Dr. Martin Duffy through the community-funded Prostate Cancer Centre (PCC), who ordered an MRI and found a cancerous lesion on Scratch’s prostate.
Dr. Duffy went over different treatments including prostate removal and explained that the physical repercussions of removal can be extremely challenging. Despite that, Scratch knew with the combination of his relatively young age and the growth rate of his cancer, removal was his best option.
“After I talked to Dr. Duffy about what my options were, I felt removal was the best course of action,” Scratch says.
Scratch had his prostate removed in January of 2023 and his post-surgery tests show the cancer has not spread. He has experienced the side effects that give many men pause when considering prostate removal — incontinence and erectile dysfunction. However, his incontinence resolved within three months of surgery, and he and his doctors are optimistic that his sexual function will also return with time and various therapies. He has had to take a break from marathon running but is slowly returning to recreational running to rebuild his strength.
Even with the discomfort that comes with prostate removal, Scratch says his post-operative challenges don’t even compare to the alternative, which would almost definitely have been a premature death. He believes if he had waited the six years until he was 50 to get tested, the cancer very likely would have spread beyond his prostate. This is why he takes every opportunity to urge men to get screened for prostate cancer, even if they are healthy and in their early 40s with no family history of the disease. Scratch says, “Looking at what my future might have been, and enjoying what I have today, I would make the same decision today.”
For Scratch, fatherhood meant taking care of his health so that he’d be around to take care of his daughter. “Becoming a father made it important for me to take aggressive, no-holds-barred action on this because I didn’t want to die,” he says. “Being a father is such an amazing thing, and I definitely want to be there for my daughter.”
This Father’s Day (or any other day), be like Scratch and talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening or find out how you can get screened through the Prostate Cancer Centre’s Man Van at prostatecancercentre.ca/manvan.