Removing a hidden cancer: Surgeon avoided nerves when he removed prostate; patient – and wife – are thankful
Prostate cancer usually grows slowly.
Unfortunately, Patrick Young‘s cancer was aggressive, and furtive. It hid itself around the top side of his prostate, in the back, where a biopsy needle would be unlikely to reach.
Fortunately, Patrick Young‘s wife, a research scientist, found an expert urologic oncologist just 90 minutes from their home in rural Chenango County. Young became a patient of Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, who chairs the department of urology at Upstate and who specializes in cancers of the kidney, bladder and prostate.
“My wife and I both love how passionate he is about what he does,” says Young, who grows organic vegetables and raises free range hens in Guilford. He was 54 when he developed trouble keeping an erection.
His primary care provider began monitoring his level of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, an enzyme found in high concentrations in the blood of men who have prostate cancer. PSA levels can also be affected by inflammation or enlargement of the prostate. Young also underwent a biopsy before his wife, Rebecca Armstrong Young, PhD, sought an experienced urologist to take over his care.
Bratslavsky began closely monitoring Young‘s PSA level.
When the level rose, Bratslavsky scheduled a magnetic resonance imaging scan and biopsy done with a powerful 3-tesla MRI system that uses technology similar to global positioning navigation to locate hard-to-find cancers of the prostate.
Upstate became the first provider in Central New York to offer the Philips UroNav Fusion Biopsy System in October 2013. Since then, about 300 precision-guided fusion biopsies have been done with as many as 25 percent revealing aggressive cancers that otherwise would have been missed. Many of the men found to have less-aggressive cancers were spared unnecessary treatment because the fusion biopsy provided reassurance that they were not harboring more aggressive cancers.
Young‘s images and biopsy were done on Christmas Eve 2015. They revealed cancer had corkscrewed out from the prostate and attached itself to his bladder. Surgery was Young‘s only option, since he has ulcerative colitis. In order to give his body time to heal from the biopsy, surgery was scheduled for Feb. 29.
“I was scared, and I‘m not normally a scared type of person,” Young admits. “Lung cancer killed my mother, and my baby brother had testicular cancer 12 years ago. Thankfully, he has gotten through it.”
Bratslavsky‘s plan was to remove Young‘s prostate, delicately avoiding the nerves around the gland. That‘s not always possible, Young knew, but he was hopeful.
The surgery was a success.
At a follow up appointment, Young kissed Bratslavsky on the cheek. “I love what you‘ve done for Becky and me.”
This article appears in the winter 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.