Eddie Carrillo experienced no symptoms that might have alerted him to his elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level.
But at a routine physical, Carrillo learned that his PSA was an alarming 4.5; normal is 1.0. Carrillo’s doctor told him it was likely he had prostate cancer, and that his prostate would have to be removed to prevent the cancer from spreading.
A urologist agreed with the primary care physician’s recommendation of a prostatectomy. Two doctors, two cancer diagnoses and two prescriptions for removal of his prostate left Carrillo devastated. He thought about his uncles and friends who had undergone radiation and surgery that led to varying degrees of incontinence and impotence. In Carrillo’s mind, it wasn’t a question of if he would lose function, but rather to what degree he would have to deal with issues that would impede, as he saw it, his “manhood.”
That’s when he heard about research being conducted for men with high PSA levels by Dr. Leonard Marks, a renowned urologist specializing in prostate cancer at UCLA. Carrillo enrolled in the study and his outlook changed. After thorough exams and biopsies, Dr. Marks told him he would not need surgery; rather, he would follow a strategy known as active surveillance – regular testing to keep an eye on the cancer and make sure it didn’t progress to the point that treatment was needed.
Each year, Dr. Marks examines Carrillo’s prostate health through a targeted biopsy performed by new technology that fuses sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with real-time ultrasound to log 10 coordinates like a GPS system. The new technique allows Dr. Marks to be more precise in his examination. Carrillo continues to be in the clear: The most recent biopsy revealed no sign of the cancer having spread, though his PSA level remained high. Carrillo holds his breath each time he has to go in for surveillance biopsy, but he views this option as far preferable to surgery and its side effects.
Ten years after his diagnosis, Carrillo still has his prostate, his sexual function and a good overall quality of life, which now includes grandchildren. He is forever grateful that he found Dr. Marks, who changed everything.
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