“Being Human” is Good Medicine for Prostate Cancer Patients

Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, Scott Thurman, M.D., always gravitated toward science. As a biology major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pre-med was a natural fit.

“My father is a urologist,” says Dr. Thurman. “I don’t know if that fact was a direct influence on my career path, but it probably had an indirect effect.”

When Dr. Thurman began doing rotations and observing surgeries during his third year of medical school, it soon became clear that he wanted to pursue a surgical subspecialty in urology.

Throughout his surgical internship, urology residency and early practice, Dr. Thurman performed many open prostatectomies, perfecting his surgical techniques. When he moved back to Fort Worth in 2004, robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy was just being introduced as an alternative to open surgical procedures.

“When I joined Urological Associates of North Texas (an affiliate of USMD Prostate Cancer Center) in 2005, we were just starting the robotics program,” he notes. “As a tool, robotic systems like the da Vinci give the surgeon a bit more precision and make the procedure and recovery easier on the patient.” 

Today, Dr. Thurman surgically treats men with prostate cancer, as well as men and women battling kidney cancer.

“It’s incredible to have the ability to really touch a patient and their family’s lives. To have a patient tell you “You saved my life,” is very rewarding—especially when your practice is focused on cancer. I learn something from every patient, every surgery. Those experiences only make me a better physician.”

Dr. Thurman is keenly aware of the confidence and trust each patient places in him.

“There’s no greater amount of trust a person can give someone else, than a patient gives a surgeon. It’s their body, their soul, everything.”

Building that bond with his patients is something Dr. Thurman knows requires time and compassion.

“Those first few visits with patients are very long, but they need to be,” he explains. “It’s all about making sure I’ve answered all their questions and that they feel comfortable. I want to really listen, hear what they’re saying and spend time just being human. Hopefully, by the end of the visit, they feel much better because I’ve responded to their questions and relieved some of the anxiety and fears they had coming in. Sometimes a patient will come in terrified, and then at the end they’ll say, ‘Wow, you made me feel better about what’s going on.’”

As an avid runner who routinely runs laps around the TCU track and competes in 5Ks, 78-year-old Marvin Herring appreciated Dr. Thurman’s approach.

“When I interviewed him, the first thing I asked him was how old he was and what physical activity he was involved with. He told me he was a runner. I said I was a runner too and we talked about that for a little bit. He said he runs in Foster Park like I do. Then I asked, ‘How many robotic surgeries have you done?’ If he had said 10, I would have walked out. But he said over 1,000. That gave me confidence in him and USMD Prostate Cancer Center.”

While Dr. Thurman told Marvin he usually doesn’t perform robot-assisted prostatectomies on older men, “He said he was making an exception for me because I appeared to be in very good health,” Marvin remembers. “I told him, ‘I am. I run every day. I can outrun you.’”

In fact, Marvin couldn’t imagine his life without running, so he was concerned about recovery time and post-surgery side-effects.  

“I asked him, ‘How much will I leak after surgery?’ He said, ‘You’re going to leak for a little while. It depends on you and what you do. I want you to go to rehabilitation afterward. The physical therapist will give you some exercises that will help stop leakage.’ It made me feel good that we could talk about it,” Marvin says.

Dr. Thurman performed Marvin’s surgery on July 28, 2015, and all went well.

“By August 20, I was jogging and running again,” Marvin says. By September 20, I was in race form. I got my 5K time back to 33:05—pre-surgery it was 28:50—but I don’t have any leakage running or walking.”

Today, Marvin is cancer-free and thriving because of his life-saving prostatectomy and proactive attitude about his treatment and recovery.
Like his colleagues, Dr. Thurman views patient education, debunking misinformation, and making sure men understand all their available treatment options, as a big part of USMD Prostate Cancer Center’s mission.

“The thing many men don’t understand is that an elevated PSA level doesn’t mean they’re going to automatically need a biopsy, or need to have their prostate removed,” he says. “With low-grade prostate cancer, active surveillance may be the best course—which means we carefully monitor their condition rather than immediately recommend surgery or other treatment. A PSA screening is just a blood test that helps you and your physician make informed decisions based on its results. As a comprehensive prostate cancer treatment facility, we’re not trying to sell ourselves. We’re here to help guide men to treatment options best suited to the unique nature of their prostate cancer.”

Still, Dr. Thurman has a word of caution for men who choose to forgo prostate cancer screenings.  

“The only way to truly find high-grade prostate cancer early is to have a PSA screening,” he says. “I’ve operated on men whose PSA level was theoretically within the normal range and they’ve had high-grade, high-risk prostate cancer. The only way to even have a chance of curing prostate cancer is to find it early. Out of thousands of patients, there have been some who have definitely been diagnosed too late.”

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would like to know more about your treatment options or schedule an appointment with Dr. Thurman, contact USMD Prostate Cancer Center online or call 1-888-PROSTATE (1-888-776-7828).

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