By Lauren Wanko
Sixty-one-year-old John Sands was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February.
“That was the more comforting part of it, knowing that I caught it early enough,” he said.
The prostate is a male reproductive organ.
“Cancer of the prostate is just that. It’s a cancer that grows in the prostate. It’s very common and it’s something that really most people would never know they have unless we find it early,” Jersey Shore University Medical Center’s Dr. Michael Lasser said.
The American Cancer Society indicates other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. About one man in seven will be diagnosed with it during his lifetime. About 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer are estimated for 2015 and more than 27,000 deaths are expected this year. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. In New Jersey, approximately 7,270 cases of prostate cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year and more than 720 deaths.
“Research is ongoing but we don’t have a great answer as to why it’s so common and what the specific causes are,” Dr. Lasser said.
Dr. Lasser says more than 80 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are likely to not show any symptoms, which is he why he insists screening is so important. It starts with talking to your doctor, getting a PSA test and exam. PSA is a substance produced by the prostate and is measurable in blood. An abnormally high level may indicate risk for prostate cancer.
“And we see that there’s a lot of things that can lead to PSA going up, not just prostate cancer, so it’s important when you are screened to see someone who knows about PSA,” he said.
Dr. Lasser recommends, unless there’s a family history, all men should consider getting screened beginning at age 50. John’s primary care doctor was alarmed by the spike in his PSA level. After his diagnosis he explored the many treatment options like active surveillance, which includes routine check-ups and biopsies, radiation or surgery. What he ultimately chose — to remove the entire prostate.
“That was the reason why I chose to have the surgery — was to have peace of mind not just for myself but for my family,” he said.
At Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Dr. Lasser performs robotic surgery to remove the prostate and reconnect the urinary system.
“It’s essentially what we call a laparoscopy, or minimally invasive surgery — surgery with small cameras through small incisions and the robot is special because it actually has what we call an EndoWrist, so 10 time zoom, 3 dimensional view and the ability to manipulate tissues and perform surgery in a meticulous way that leads to less damage to tissue and a much better recovery I think,” Dr. Lasser said.
It’s been four weeks since John’s surgery and all the cancer was removed. He says the recovery was relatively easy.
“I was up walking the first day after surgery,” he said.
John’s scheduled for a PSA follow-up next month. His doctor expects him to be cancer-free.