Early intervention by CentraState's team of family practitioners and oncology specialists helps identify and successfully treat Jackson man's prostate cancer.
Based on his age and family history, 78-year-old Robert C. Blum was particularly vigilant about his prostate health. “My father passed away from prostate cancer in his mid-to-late 70s, so I’ve been getting checked every year,” says the Jackson resident and former presiding judge for the municipal courts of Monmouth County.
When Robert’s level of PSA or prostate-specific antigen (a protein in the body that can become elevated in the presence of prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate) steadily
rose from a measure of 2 to 6 over the past couple of years, both Robert and his CentraState team knew it was time to take action. Robert’s primary care physician, Robert Pedowitz, DO, board-certified family medicine physician and on staff at CentraState, referred Robert to a urologist who subsequently biopsied his prostate and confirmed the presence of cancer.
A Preventable Disease
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 221,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually, and more than 27,000 men will die from the condition.
“Outside of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, and while it’s often genetic and can have serious complications, it’s largely a preventable disease that can be addressed with multiple treatment options,” confirms Dr. Pedowitz, Medical Director for Family Practice of CentraState. “Because the earlier it’s detected, the better the patient’s outcome will be, it’s great to begin screening early,” he adds. “If I find an abnormality during the digital rectal exam (DRE) or when checking the PSA, I involve a urologist or other specialists to help determine the status and the optimal treatment, whether that be watchful waiting, radiation or surgery.” According to Dr. Pedowitz, this determination is based on the patient’s age and the presence of any comorbidity issues that could impair longevity.
“Men with enlargement or cancer of the prostate can experience changes in their urinary pattern such as increased frequency or hesitancy in the stream, but one of the most common symptoms of prostate cancer is no symptoms at all,” reveals Edward Soffen, MD, board-certified radiation-oncologist and chairman of the department of radiation oncology at CentraState, who administered Robert’s radiation treatments. “Prostate cancer can be and often is slow growing, but many times it’s not, so it’s important to perform a biopsy to see how aggressive it is.”
Based on Robert’s profile and the result of his exams, the team ultimately recommended that he undergo radiation treatments over a nine-week period.
“During that process, we also utilized a special hydro gel, known as SpaceOAR, that helps push the rectum out of the radiation field to avoid unnecessary exposure of that tissue,” Dr. Soffen says. SpaceOAR is a beneficial, FDA-approved procedure that CentraState helped both research and promote, becoming one of the first hospitals in the country to offer it to patients.
Since completing radiation, Dr. Soffen is excited about the road ahead for his patient. “Robert had no symptoms during the course of treatment, and there’s an extremely high likelihood that he’ll be cured,” Dr. Soffen says.
“Robert was very proactive, choosing to involve me, his urologist, and his oncology team in his ongoing care and he has an outstanding prognosis,” Dr. Pedowitz agrees.
Robert also shares in his doctors’ optimism. Following his last radiation treatment on February 4, “The outlook is very positive and I feel good,” says Robert, who enjoys an active lifestyle. “My CentraState team of doctors was extremely knowledgeable, caring and competent; they worked together to confirm my diagnosis, recommend targeted radiation, and give me hope that my cancer could be successfully treated, and they’ll continue to monitor me in the months and years ahead. It’s important to track your numbers and catch any issues early on because prostate cancer is very curable in early stages. Today, I’m looking forward to the future and watching my three grandchildren grow up.”
An Ounce of Prevention
“Men can be more stoic and dismissive of their own health care than women, and men also don’t particularly like rectal exams, but they just take a second and can provide a lot of important information,” Dr. Soffen explains. “Prostate enlargement is a side effect of the aging process in males, and a fairly significant percentage of men will have prostate cancer. While many are slow-growing and won’t be lethal or pose a concern, we don’t know which those are until we do a screening, so we encourage all men to be screened on an annual basis.”
Dr. Pedowitz adds, “The American Urological Association, American Cancer Society and U.S. Preventative Services Task Force guidelines recommend that men between the ages of 50 and 75 have an annual prostate screening involving a digital rectal exam, and a PSA blood test.
However, even under the age of 50 or over 75, Dr. Pedowitz says he still discusses a patient’s risk factors, symptoms and family history with them and has that conversation so they can be informed and take charge of their health
“Both men and women need to be diligent about their health care—from eating a sound diet to exercising responsibly and getting their regular and recommended check-ups and screenings,” Dr. Soffen says. We’re our own best advocates and these measures can positively impact our longevity and quality of life.”
Dr. Soffen also emphasizes how important it is that patients who are facing the diagnosis and treatment of cancer enter the process as healthy as possible.
As it relates to prostate awareness and prostate cancer, Dr. Pedowitz concludes, “The most important thing is to get an annual screening and to engage in regular communication with your physicians.”