Surgery successfully treats his prostate cancer
BY JIM HOWE
A series of medical tests provided Donald Gregory of Camillus with good news and bad news.
At an annual physical in 2021, Gregory, 69, found out he had an elevated level of PSA, or prostate- speciﬁc antigen, indicating he might have prostate cancer. He underwent a biopsy, where tissue samples are taken from the prostate gland, a walnut-sized gland that surrounds the neck of a man's bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder.
That biopsy conﬁrmed he had cancer. That was the bad news.
The good news: it was caught early enough that it could be treated.
Among American men, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer, after skin cancer, and is the second leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer. Most prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.
Choosing an operation
Facing the choice of radiation or surgery for treatment, Gregory chose surgery, which led him to Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, the chief of urology at Upstate.
“I liked him right off. He explained the differences between surgery and radiation,” Gregory recalls of his meeting with Bratslavsky.
Gregory underwent a robotic- assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. This means the surgeon uses robotic arms as he operates to remove the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue. Laparoscopic refers to using a series of tiny cuts instead of a large cut
He was warned of the possible consequences of this surgery, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence, but told Bratslavsky, “ ‘Doc, I’m not a kid anymore; I’m more concerned with getting rid of the cancer.’
“He couldn’t be nicer,” Gregory says of the urologist, also praising everyone assisting in the operation and his care.
A smooth recovery
After the surgery, he had to urinate through a catheter for about a week, and it took about six to eight weeks before he was back to his normal daily routine.
A later blood test showed his PSA had dropped from above 5 (4 is often considered the upper limit of safety) to zero, conﬁrmed by another test six months after that.
Bratslavsky, in a telemedicine visit because of the pandemic, gave Gregory a thumbs-up sign, then formed a zero with his ﬁngers and said, “ ‘We got it all. We got all the cancer,’ ” Gregory recalls. “I said, ‘Thank God I went through this and got good results.’ ” He will be checked again down the road.
What would Gregory advise other men facing prostate cancer?
“I survived it. It wasn’t easy. It was uncomfortable, but it gets better with time.”