The American Cancer Society recognizes September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness month. As September approaches, I would like to share my father’s story and my family’s experience navigating the many healthcare decisions that followed his cancer diagnosis. This experience was one of many that motivated me to start Better Health Advisors. It deepened my understanding of how decisions about the right doctor, hospital, and course of treatment are not one size fits all; they must take into account the unique medical profile of each patient.
Back in 2001 my father, at 63 years old, became one of the more than 190,000 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Having had both his mother and sister die from cancer, he knew he was at risk, but the diagnosis still came as a shock.
Moments after receiving the diagnosis, we were confronted with a difficult decision about the best course of treatment for him. As the urologist explained the diagnosis, he recommended a course of treatment and suggested that my father begin it immediately in his office. If we pursued this particular treatment, some other treatment options would be ruled out.
While prostate cancer is typically treated with either surgery or radiation, some men elect for active surveillance. Treatment decisions vary widely depending on the unique health circumstances and preferences of each patient. Although the American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 9 men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime, the disease is typically not fatal.
Overwhelmed, my father asked me for help deciding what to do—should he listen to the urologist or seek a second opinion? Using my two decades of experience working in healthcare and my knowledge about my father’s overall health, 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 family member 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.
I founded Better Health Advisors to help other people make better healthcare decisions. My team and I regularly work with people who are facing a new diagnosis and unsure how to proceed. If you ever find yourself in that position, please reach out to us.