By Bruce Stambaugh
I remember the exact time and place when I got the phone call that said I likely had prostate cancer. A biopsy three months later confirmed the preliminary test.
I wasn’t surprised by the news, but I was disappointed. I had hoped to avoid the disease that was in my family’s medical history. My father died of prostate cancer, and a year and a half before my diagnosis, my older brother had had robotic prostate cancer surgery to remove the cancerous prostate.
With this background, my doctors kept a close watch on my situation. When my Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) began to rise, my urology appointments went from annual to semiannual.
The PSA test, which requires a simple blood draw, has been the standard for monitoring a man’s prostate health. September is designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and having a baseline PSA score is an essential guide for healthcare providers to know their patients’ situations, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Early detection is important,” said Dr. Timothy Coblentz, a urologist in Canton and a native of Holmes County, Ohio. “Men who are caught early with prostate cancer have very good cure results.”
Dr. Coblentz said the PSA screening is especially important for men ages 55 to 69. He said men with high risk factors of family history and race should also be screened beginning no later than age 40.
“There is no doubt that screening for prostate cancer saves lives,” Dr. Coblentz said. His practice is part of the Canton Urology Group, which hosts a prostate cancer awareness meeting on the second Tuesday of each month.
Luis Lacourt of Massillon, Ohio coordinates the group. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 42, or as he puts it, “About 25 years before the average age of diagnosis.”
Lacourt also had a family history with the disease. His grandfather, father and uncle all had prostate cancer. At the urging of his father, Lacourt asked his family doctor to begin PSA testing to establish a baseline.
At age 40, he began seeing a urologist, who happened to be Dr. Coblentz. When Lacourt’s PSA score doubled in a year, the red flag went up. A biopsy confirmed his prostate cancer in May 2012, and a month later he underwent successful robotic prostate cancer surgery.
Lacourt, now 44, is a guidance counselor at Perry High School in Massillon. He is also an ordained minister.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Lacourt said. “It became clear to me that prostate cancer awareness was something I could share as a positive influence to help others.”
With the assistance of a urology nurse with Dr. Coblentz, Lacourt began the monthly support meeting, which is open to all who have had or currently have prostate cancer. He said the emphasis is on sharing and learning, and recognizing that prostate cancer awareness is important.
Lacourt’s proactivity about prostate cancer began immediately after being diagnosed. He organized a Prostate Cancer Awareness night at a high school football game last October.
Early detection of prostate cancer was critical to me. Knowing the disease was in my family raised my risk of having it. However, my baseline PSA level was much higher than my brother’s. His spiked significantly in one year, the biopsy was done, followed by the surgery.
My PSA went up gradually. When it exceeded the standard threshold of 4, my testing and the exams increased, though I had no symptoms that anything was amiss. On May 12, 2011, I had my robotic prostate cancer surgery, and have fortunately since been declared cancer free.
More than two years post surgery, I am doing very well, partly thanks to a support group of other men who have or are fighting the same fight. Kim Kellogg of Millersburg, Ohio invited me to the group. Kellogg was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year to the day ahead me.
“Having an advocate and being an advocate to others is really important before and after treatment,” Kellogg said. “Stay positive, be vocal, ask questions of the doctors and others who have had prostate cancer.”
Being able to share with a small group of others with prostate cancer has made the physical and emotional recovery from the robotic surgery much easier than trying to go it alone. Our group meets about once a month.
Statistically, one in six men get prostate cancer and 30,000 men die in the United States each year from the disease. Those figures alone drive prostate cancer awareness. Excellent resources about prostate cancer can be found from the Blue Cure Foundation and the One in Six Foundation. Both foundations provide excellent information on prostate cancer prevention, and resources for those diagnosed with prostate cancer and living with the disease.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013