Joe Exotic's Journey
- Tiger King star Joe Exotic, who is currently serving 22 years in federal prison for a variety of offenses, says his doctors suspect he may have prostate cancer.
- Exotic’s PSA screening test for prostate cancer came back elevated, and he is scheduled to see an oncologist.
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It starts in the walnut-shaped prostate gland, which is located between the rectum and bladder.
In a series of tweets, Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldanado-Passage, says his PSA count “came back very high for prostate cancer. The prison has approved testing to verify what stage it is in. My body is tired, I have lost a tremendous amount of weight, the mouth sores are out of control. I throw up more than I eat.” (A PSA test measures the amount of prostate specific antigen in the blood. A higher level could indicate cancer.)Read More
Exotic, 56, says he has an appointment May 27 with an oncologist and June 1 with an urologist. “Now they report a biopsy will also be scheduled on a tumor on my right side below my ribs. Also scheduling a colonoscopy and endoscopy to find everything,” he tweeted. A prostate cancer diagnosis can be suspected with a PSA test, but is usually confirmed with a biopsy.
Exotic’s lawyer John M. Phillips shared this statement with SurvivorNet: “As noted in Joe’s recent statement, he has been undergoing medical treatment and tests for a host of issues. The PSA test is a blood test used primarily to screen for prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. Joe’s test results were high. He’s scheduled to undergo further testing. Medical care is different in a prison environment and fewer options are available. Please keep Joe in your thoughts and prayers while we try to get him a new trial.”
John Phillips has received my medical records from FMC Fort Worth and my PSA count came back very high for prostate cancer. The prison has approved testing to verify what stage it is in. My body is tired, I have lost a tremendous amount of weight, the mouth sores… pic.twitter.com/pPbaGcPYwA
— Joe Exotic (@joe_exotic) May 14, 2021
Update: I have an appointment on the 27th with the oncologist and June 1 with the urologist. Now they report a biopsy will also be scheduled on a tumor on my right side below my ribs. Also scheduling a colonoscopy and endoscopy to find everything. pic.twitter.com/3MoODOnlet
— Joe Exotic (@joe_exotic) May 15, 2021
Tiger King, the Netflix true crime mini-series released in March 2020, chronicles the “stranger than fiction world of big cat owners” and focuses on Exotic, a “mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country western singer” who runs a roadside exotic animal park. According to the Netflix description of the show, “things take a dark turn when Carole Baskin, an animal activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary, threatens to put them out of business.”
The show has been a massive hit for the streaming service, with 34.3M viewers within the first 10 days of release. As a result, both Exotic and Baskin have become part of the pop culture zeitgeist of the pandemic era. In fact, NBC has announced a comedy series called Joe Exotic featuring SNL star Kate McKinnon as Baskin and John Cameron Mitchell as Exotic.
In 2019, Exotic was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of convicted murder for hire for a plot to kill Baskin. Exotic claims he was singled out for prosecution because he “is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and cross breeds.” Exotic’s new legal team is planning to file a motion for a new trial in federal court in Oklahoma.
Screening for Prostate Cancer with PSA Tests
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It starts in the walnut-shaped prostate gland, which is located between the rectum and bladder and produces the fluid that nourishes sperm. The PSA test is a simple blood test that’s used to screen for prostate cancer and also to track a patient’s response to treatment. PSA, or protein-specific antigen, is the name of a protein secreted by the prostate gland. Men have a small amount of PSA in their blood all the time but large amounts may signal that something is wrong. When cancer cells grow, PSA spills into the blood. Exotic says his PSA levels are high and cancer is suspected, but the only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer is with a biopsy.
In an earlier interview, urologic oncologist Dr. James Brooks discusses the PSA screening test. He says, “Current guidelines are to start screening at age 55 and continue screening through age 70. The reason for that is prostate cancer diagnosed after age 70 has a reasonably low probability it’s going to take your life because prostate cancer, even in its aggressive forms, when it’s localized is a relatively slow-growing cancer.”
“Men who are at high risk because of a family history should have PSA testing earlier,” he says. “At latest, age 40, but probably even by age 35, they should have an initial PSA. That PSA test at a younger age, it’s a more accurate test because the prostate has not increased in size, which can cause the test to be more difficult to interpret.”