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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Yearly Physicals Missed Growing Cancer

DEAR ABBY: I am writing this from a well-known cancer and tumor clinic in Texas.

We are here because my husband, who has had a complete physical every year since 1971, has inoperable prostate cancer. I am angry and bitter because no doctor, during 20 years of annual physical examinations that included a digital rectal examination, ever mentioned that there are blood tests which can detect prostate cancer.

We have been told that my husband has had this disease for at least seven to eight years. We also learned that if a man's brother or father has had prostate cancer, his chances of getting cancer are increased 2 1/2 times! In every medical questionnaire my husband has ever filled out, he stated that his father had died of prostatic cancer. (His brother was diagnosed last week with the same disease!)

We are hoping that our experience will educate others so they will not find themselves where we are. We strongly urge all "high risk" men to be examined by a urologist, because many physicians do not recognize prostate disease. -- ANGRY AND BITTER

DEAR ANGRY AND BITTER: You have every right to be both angry and bitter, and I thank you for trying to warn others.

For readers who do not know what "high risk" means in this context, it refers to people whose blood relatives have been afflicted with the same disease.

DEAR ABBY: When a couple asks another couple to ride along with them, what is the proper seating? Should the wife automatically sit in front with her husband, or should she sit in the back with the other lady? Or should the couple whose car it is ask the other couple how they prefer to ride? -- EDNA C. IN CARMAN, ILL.

DEAR EDNA: It depends on the circumstances -- how well the couples know each other, the distance to be traveled and whether either of the couples are newlyweds. (Newlyweds usually prefer to sit together.)

The important factor in the seating arrangement is that everybody be pleased and comfortable. Couples who have a long friendship might prefer "one-on-one" conversation with the spouse of the same sex. My personal rule of thumb: When in doubt, sit with your own mate.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for insisting that a written thank-you note for a gift is still absolutely imperative. I was appalled when a reader suggested that a "warm hug and a verbal thank-you at the next chance meeting at church or a social function should be sufficient."

A child should be taught at a very early age to write a thank-you note. Writing improves finger coordination, penmanship and spelling, and helps to create a bond between the child and the giver.

In today's world of electronic communication -- the telephone and fax -- it is still necessary to record thoughts, events and instructions in writing. If a "tape" is erased, the message is lost forever. Therefore it is vital that we learn how to communicate in writing. And it all begins when a child is taught to write a thank-you note.

At 86, I am still writing. -- M.S.P., SANTA ANA, CALIF.

To get Abby's booklet "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600