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John Fitzpatrick is the kind of guy who likes to weigh all his options. He's also a big believer in preventive medicine, which is one reason he got a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test along with his regular physical 5 years ago. A PSA test indicates a man's likliehood of developing prostate cancer. "I wanted to have a baseline," said John, a resident of Langhorne, PA, who celebrated his 62nd birthday in 2010.
John's baseline PSA test helped doctors determine a course of treatment.
That baseline proved to be useful in January 2008. What was typically a 1.9 reading came back as a 3.1, meaning his levels were elevated compared to his last reading. John's family doctor suggested he see an urologist at the local community hospital, who repeated the test in 3 months. This time the levels increased to 4.1, which was of concern. "I'd had no symptoms, no family history, no issues with erectile or bladder function," he recalled. A biopsy and an ultrasound revealed that John had prostate cancer. "My doctor had biopsied 12 different spots, and only 1 was positive for cancer," he said. Typically, a larger sampling results in a more accurate diagnosis.
John's physician had caught the cancer early, and according to his Gleason grade (in which a pathologist evaluates the tissue to predict how fast growing the cancer is), John's was very slow growing. His trained urologist suggested traditional surgery, but John wanted to research his options because he was concerned about missing time from work. He asked for a second opinion from a large teaching hospital in Philadelphia and was advised "watchful waiting," or active surveillance. Doctors kept an eye on his PSA scores every 6 months and monitored for any changes. "I was a little anxious, but that's what I decided to do," he said.
A few years later, John read about the robotic prostate surgery being performed by Dr. Rosalia Viterbo at Fox Chase Cancer Center, as well as the Fox Chase's new radiation facility in Buckingham, PA, not far from his home. John brought all his paperwork and met with Dr. Viterbo, as well as a radiation oncologist Mark Buyyounouski, MD, MS.
"Dr. Viterbo really helped me understand my options. She is a terrific doctor."
John was under the impression that by undergoing radiation, he would not be a surgical candidate in the future, should his cancer recur. "Dr. Viterbo really helped me understand my options. She is a terrific doctor," John said, who elected to undergo radiation treatment, knowing that surgery is still an option, if necessary.
"Going to Buckingham for radiation was such a convenient process for me."
John was convinced and began a course of 39 radiation treatments, working with Dr. Shelly Hayes in Buckingham, a schedule that took him through March 2010. "Going to Buckingham for radiation was such a convenient process for me," said John, who would arrive by 8:15 for his radiation, and be home by 9 am. "It was never crowded. And I was able to work the whole day, which was great," he said.
"I can't say enough about Dr. Hayes and her staff. We just connected.
"I feel really good about my decision to work with Dr. Hayes," he said. "Everyone at Buckingham is so caring and very thorough." John feels fortunate that he had treatment options. "I know other people who didn't." Today, John's PSA scores are back to normal, and he continues to get tested every 6 months. "You think prostate cancer is a private thing that's just happening to you," he said. "But once you start talking to people, you find out otherwise. I already have a few friends going through it. I tell everybody, get that baseline PSA. It could save your life."