Six Tips for Finding the Right Prostate Cancer Specialist

Of all the decisions you will make in your life, choosing the physician who will shepherd you through your prostate cancer treatment will be one of the most important. Unfortunately, you will have to make this decision during one of the most stressful times in your life. Paul Moseley remembers what it was like trying to process his cancer diagnosis while meeting with doctors and looking for someone who made him feel comfortable and confident.

“Handling guys is tricky sometimes,” he says. “Some of us are real tough and some fall apart. You’re scared and you’re meeting a stranger. It’s different if you’re buying car parts, but this person is probably going to operate on you—probably save your life. It’s one of the greatest bonding experiences of your life.”

So how do you find a doctor with the right combination of knowledge, experience, skill and compassion? Here are some insights from prostate cancer survivors who understand what you’re going through.

Talk with other men.

Your network of friends and family members can be a great help in honing in on the right physician. Prostate cancer survivor Kenneth Lawrence says conversation he had with men he knew directly and indirectly—including a cousin’s husband, friend whose father was treated for prostate cancer, and the brother-in-law of a urologist friend—really helped. “The conversations and tips I learned were very helpful in my process of choosing a center and physician for my treatment,” he says.

Mike Harvey is grateful for the physician recommendation he received from a friend who had already been down the treatment path. Now he pays it forward. “I talk to a lot of men who have just found out they have prostate cancer,” he says. “I try to take the fear out of it. I tell them I’ve got a great doctor for you.”

As a two-time survivor of prostate cancer, Jessie Maddox is also happy to talk with men.  “If I can help someone else, give encouragement to a first-time cancer fella, or even a man going through it a second time, I’m happy to do it,” he says.

Do your research.

Today, there are a lot of print and electronic resources that can help you learn about the disease, treatment options, side effects and more. If you look for information online, stick to credible, well-known websites of respected medical facilities or organizations like Lawrence did. “I read all the information on the John Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society and MD Anderson websites,” he says.

Read physician bios and look for articles they may have written or be quoted in to learn about their education, medical training, experience and areas of specialization. See what patients have to say about them via Facebook and other social media outlets.

Visit your local library, bookstore or order books online about prostate cancer. Marvin Herring says reading Dr. Patrick Walsh’s Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer helped him decide whether he wanted to undergo radiation treatment or a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy, and know what questions to ask when he met with physicians.

Interview more than one physician.

Harvey clearly remembers the first meeting he had with a doctor after he was diagnosed.  “His bedside manner was anything but wonderful,” he says. “By the time my wife and I left his office, we were buzzing because we didn’t know what to make of what all he said. We were so upset.”

One of Harvey’s friends recommended he see Dr. Justin Lee for a second opinion.

“He took the tornado out of the equation. He spent all the time in the world with my wife and me. He has a great calming way about him that really puts you at ease about what’s ahead of you. Not that he sugar coats it—he does not. He just makes you feel comfortable that you’ll get through it. When I went to other doctors, they were more apt to tell me what could go wrong, how bad it is, how bad it can be—and Dr. Lee did not do that. He looked at the charts, looked at the biopsy and very calmly told us, ‘Here are your options.’”

Moseley was impressed by Dr. Bevan-Thomas’ response when he told him he wanted to visit another doctor. “I said, I don’t want to offend you, but I’d like to have a second opinion. Immediately he said, ‘Absolutely. If you want to go to MD Anderson, I know people there. I’ll call them for you.’ He set that all up for me.”

Ask the important questions and get straight answers.

“When I went to interview Dr. Scott Thurman, the first thing I asked him was how old he was and what physical activity he was involved with,” 78-year-old Herring remembers. “He told me he was a runner. I said I was a runner too and we talked about that for a bit. 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.”

Harvey echoes Herring’s feelings.

“Sometimes you’ll ask a physician how many surgeries they’ve performed and they have a mental lapse. Dr. Lee was able to answer that question. I hadn’t made my final decision yet, but knew that if I did have surgery, it would be with Dr. Lee.”

Herring also wanted straight answers about potential post-surgery side-effects.  

“I asked Dr. Thurman how much I would 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,” he says.

Look for honesty, not salesmanship.

When Jim Cox met with Dr. Keith Waguespack, he initially thought a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy would be the best treatment option for him.

“He very politely told me, ‘You’re overweight. I won’t operate on you at this weight because you have a 25 percent higher risk of incontinence based on your current weight.’ The first surgeon I met with in Waco hadn’t mentioned that,” Cox remembers. “I told my wife, ‘I don’t know what type of treatment I’m going to have, but I’m going to have it here."

Cox ultimately decided to undergo radiation treatment with Dr. Peter LaNasa.

Make sure your physician sees you as an individual, not a statistic.

Dean and Lou Ann Radke were disheartened when the first urologist they saw seemed cavalier about Dean’s prostate cancer diagnosis. Lou Ann remembers he simply said, “We don’t get real excited about prostate cancer. Statistics prove a man 78½ years of age will probably die of something else within 10 years.”

The Radke’s decided to see Bevan-Thomas for a second opinion. “He had access to all of Dean’s health records and pulled them up as he listened to our story,” Lou Ann says. “He said Dean was very healthy for his age.”

During a prostate check, Dr. Bevan-Thomas found two nodules, “The other doctor didn’t find anything,” Dean adds.

While a biopsy confirmed the presence of prostate cancer, an MRI and bone scan offered some good news.

“Dr. Bevan-Thomas was very encouraging,” Lou Ann says. “He told us the cancer was encapsulated and had not spread as far as he could tell. He said Dean’s bone scan was clear of any cancer markers—which meant he was a candidate for treatment. He gave us literature and took the time to explain each procedure to us, and what might be the expected outcome.”

Dean underwent a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy and is living cancer-free.

“We appreciate that he didn’t look at us like ‘those two little old senior citizens’ who are going to die anyway. We felt like he actually saw us as individuals.”

If you’d like to meet with one of our highly skilled and compassionate physicians about personalized treatment options for your prostate cancer, contact USMD Prostate Cancer Center online or 1-888-PROSTATE (1-888-776-7828).

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