The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Finding a Skilled Specialist


Your number one priority when you have an elevated PSA and prostate cancer is suspected, is to take the time to find the very best urologist in your area. What you need now is an experienced urologist who specializes in treating prostate cancer, a urologist who is up on all the latest medical knowledge and surgical techniques, and who will thoroughly discuss all viable treatment options with you in an even-handed manner.

Your options might include nerve-sparing prostatectomy, radiation (IMRT and seed implants), cryosurgery, proton beam therapy, hormone therapy, and Active Surveillance. All prostate cancer treatments have their risks and benefits, and sometimes your best decision is no immediate treatment. I strongly suggest that you take the time to do some Internet research so that when you see the urologist you have some knowledge of the various treatments and their side effects, and know what questions to ask.

Before making any treatment decision you should also talk with a medical oncologist.  Urologists are surgeons, so if the cancer is contained within the gland, it’s not surprising that their treatment of choice would be surgery. But if you have done your homework, you will know that a prostatectomy is a complex procedure that can leave you with considerable collateral damage. Similarly, radiation therapists will likely recommend one of the targeted radiation options. However, a medical oncologist has no vested interest in either approach and is familiar with all the treatment options, so he is uniquely qualified to help you decide which treatment to select.

Your primary care doctor usually knows the names of the best local urologists and oncologists in your area. But you may want to go beyond your local area to find a specialist, in which case you can network--ask your friends if they know of any good doctors for treating prostate cancer. Search prostate cancer Web sites. Ask any doctors you have ever consulted who they would see if they had the disease. And most states have prostate cancer support groups that provide excellent advice.

Before making a final treatment decision, it is critically important to get a second opinion, preferably from a highly trained urologist, medical oncologist or radiation oncologist at one of the major cancer centers. Second opinion consultations are standard procedure; your doctor makes such referrals all the time, and a second opinion is reimbursed by most insurance programs. One other thing, be sure to take a complete transcript of your medical records with you.

Above all, don’t rush to make any pivotal decision that could influence the rest of your life while you are still in shock from the diagnosis. You have plenty of time to make sure you are selecting an experienced doctor, and one with whom you feel comfortable, and who gives you confidence.

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