In September, the American Cancer Society recognizes National Prostate Cancer Awareness month, and I am reminded every year of 2001 when my father, at the age of 63, was one of the more than 160,000 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
Having had both his mother and sister die of cancer, he knew he was at risk. Before there was time to let the initial shock of the diagnosis sink in, we were confronted with having to make a difficult decision about the best course of treatment for him.
As the urologist was explaining the diagnosis, he recommended a course of treatment and suggested that my father begin it right then in the office. This treatment would rule out some other possible treatment options.
While prostate cancer is typically treated by either surgery or radiation, some men elect for active surveillance. Although the American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 7 men will develop prostate cancer over their lifetime, the disease is not typically fatal. Treatment options vary widely depending on the unique circumstances of each patient. Overwhelmed, my father came to me for help in making this difficult decision—should he listen to the urologist, or seek a second opinion? I determined that things were happening too quickly. We rejected the urologist’s recommendation.
After discussing options and costs of care, I found a top surgeon who had trained at Johns Hopkins under world-renowned physicians. We opted for surgery with that physician. Having a member of the family receive a cancer diagnosis took a toll on all of us, but years later, I am happy to say that my father is cancer free.
This experience was one of many that motivated me to start Better Health Advisors. It helped me to understand how decisions about the right doctor, hospital, and course of treatment are not one size fits all and must take into account the unique medical profile of each patient.