Prostate Cancer Survivor

Routine screening catches cancer early

Thanks to early screening, Paul Boesel caught his cancer – both times – at an early stage. Diagnosed with Stage IIB prostate cancer following treatment for kidney cancer, Paul is now cancer-free and enjoys spending time with his wife and grown children.

 

When I turned 50, in spite of my perceived invincibility, my primary care physician recommended a colonoscopy to monitor for colon cancer and a PSA test to watch for prostate cancer. After moving cities at the end of that year, some gastrointestinal issues eventually led to the discovery of renal cell carcinoma (and the subsequent removal of my left kidney). Fortunately, the kidney cancer hadn’t spread, but having a urologist became an important part of my medical team. I asked the urologist who removed my kidney to recommend another spe¬cialist in our new hometown.

Some time after the move, my PSA test came back at 4.3, and my new urologist recommended another test, which registered a 3.1. Subsequent readings of 3.6, 3.7 and 3.8 were still within the normal range but were consistent and high enough for my urologist to recommend a needle biopsy. He explained that the procedure involved removing 12 samples from my prostate, six from each side. The biopsy report showed adenocarcinoma in two of the six samples from the right side and in all six samples from the left side, with a Gleason score of 6 on both sides. The good news was that there was no evidence of cancer in the surrounding tissue.

My wife, Barbara, and I sought whatever information we could find about what to do after a prostate cancer diagnosis. Eventually, my urologist presented my treatment options: open surgery, robot-assisted surgery, external-beam radiation, internal radiation with seed implants, cryotherapy (which was relatively new at that time), or watchful waiting. Lots of choices. I also sent the test and biopsy results to my original urologist who had removed my kidney. Both doctors recommended surgery, primarily due to my “relatively young” age and overall good health. While there are risks associated with any surgery, our research indicated potentially better outcomes with the robot-assisted surgery, such as several small incisions as opposed to one long incision, less blood loss, fewer issues with incontinence, shorter time in the hospital, and a better opportunity to spare the nerves supporting erectile function.

Eventually, I decided to undergo a robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy. There was no significant blood loss during the surgery. I was in the hospital overnight and went home the next day with a catheter, which was removed seven days later. I had one incident of urinary incontinence during the night – a few days after the catheter was removed – but have had no issues since. I have learned, however, that if my bladder is full and I laugh real hard, I might lose a drop or two of urine.

The biopsy report showed that my prostate gland was 20-percent involved by the tumor, primarily in two nodules, with at least two other nodules present. All margins were clear from cancer, and my PSA has been undetectable in every blood test since the surgery. As with the kidney cancer, I had the surgery before any spread of the cancer.

Through my entire experience, the best advice I got came from my wife. She insisted that we needed to learn as much as we could about the disease and the treatment options. It’s also helpful to col¬lect and keep copies of all cancer-related test results and reports. Plus, because there’s a lot of information to absorb, take someone with you to your appointments to take notes or record the doctor; I’ve never had a doctor refuse this request. Finally, have confidence in the treatment plan and your medical team.

 

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