Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant of manpower and reserve affairs, began 2012 with news that no one would want to learn. The three-star manpower chief of the Marine Corps had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
His diagnosis was the result of a battery of tests that began in November last year, as part of his annual physical. The sign that something was wrong came from the score on his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which had increased when compared against the previous year.
Lt. Gen. Milstead shared: “Once they told me, ‘You’ve got cancer,’ I said, ‘Whoa’… The C-word can be intimidating. The range of options goes from denial to acceptance, and I think I was able to jump pretty quickly up to, ‘OK, I’ve got cancer. How am I going to deal with this?’”
Last February 28, the general underwent surgery to remove his prostate. He is sharing his story, he said, in order to help raise awareness regarding the importance of annual physical exams and regular screenings. He shared further that he sought to undergo screening as his father and paternal grandfather were both treated for prostate cancer.
“This is a huge fraternity,” Milstead shared. “You’ve got a better chance as a man of getting prostate cancer than you do as a female of getting breast cancer. It’s not a club I ever wanted to join, but I’m a card-carrying member now.”