Living Life to the Fullest After Early Detection
Due to PSA testing, Dave Anderson’s prostate cancer was diagnosed early. Ten years later, he is free of cancer and enjoying life in Chicago.
Dave Anderson has seen the same primary care physician at least annually since first moving to Chicago 20 years ago. In 2007, Dave noticed that although his PSA had not exceeded the “normal” range for his age, it had been doubling each year for a while. His internist suggested Dave get a biopsy, which came back positive for prostate cancer. “Thankfully, I did have an annual physical, my internist believed in cancer screening, and we caught the cancer at a very early stage,” he said.
Dave is a lawyer, and he approached choosing a cancer treatment in the same way he would solve a problem at work. “I tend to make my own decisions,” he said. “I think it’s partly my lawyer training. I gathered as much information as I could, thought about it, and made a decision.”
He decided having a prostatectomy would be the best treatment. “I considered other options, but I was only 55 at the time. I didn’t think that watchful waiting was a good option.” Although Dave briefly considered a robotic prostatectomy, he was concerned that the results might not be as favorable. “I decided that if I was going to be operated on, I wanted a surgery where it would be easy for the surgeon to see everything and make any game day decisions during the course of the surgery that might need to be made. I actually favored the open radical prostatectomy,” he said.
Dave consulted with a friend who is a urologist in Minnesota. His friend mentioned that Dr. Catalona was one of the top prostate cancer surgeons in the country. Dave visited Dr. Catalona’s website to learn more, consulted with his wife and made an appointment. “Clearly Dr. Catalona was among the very best surgeons for this particular surgery,” he said.
Dave had a successful open radical prostatectomy with Dr. Catalona later that year. “I don’t recall the surgery being much of an interruption,” he said of the recovery process. “It was a pretty short hospital stay and I was up and walking almost immediately, as they like you to do.”
Recently, Dave had his 10-year follow-up appointment with Dr. Catalona. Thankfully, he still has no detectable PSA in his system.
On early detection
Dave knows he is fortunate to have been diagnosed due to early detection. He was only 55 years old, in good health and had no symptoms of the disease. Without the PSA test, he would not have had the biopsy that found his cancer while it was still curable. At the time of his surgery, his cancer was progressing but had not escaped the prostate itself. “I imagine if I had waited much longer, if it had not been detected until 2 to 3 years later, it may have well escaped the prostate by then and have been more difficult to treat.”
Dave believes that PSA testing can help men determine if they need a biopsy to look for cancer. “Until genetic testing can perhaps screen out people who have no risk, I personally favor prostate PSA testing because even if it’s not perfect, it’s helpful.”
Get informed by asking questions
Dave’s advice for other men is to “challenge everything,” meaning men should be their own advocates. “I really try to understand what underlies things that are important in my life, including my health,” he said. “When I go for my annual physical, I’m probably a bit of a challenge to my internist, but I do ask lots of questions.”
When Dave last saw Dr. Catalona, he asked whether he might be at risk for other cancers after having prostate cancer. Dr. Catalona suggested Dave consider having a genetic test to assess for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with prostate and other cancers. Dave plans to have a genetic panel that looks for specific genes associated with prostate cancer to help determine his individualized risk for other cancers.
Dave and his wife, Sharon, are committed to eating healthy. They choose organic and whole foods over processed foods, and avoid sugar. “My daughter said visits to our house make her sweet tooth cry,” he joked. He knows exercise is important and works out at the gym three times a week, in addition to frequently taking their rescue dog, Aries, on walks in their neighborhood. At his last physical, he noted that his blood work showed “evidence that I’m eating properly and getting exercise.”
A full life in the city and the country
Dave works as general counsel for an aerospace company. He began his career in government and then at a law firm, but his career working in the legal field for larger companies has suited him very well for the last 34 years.
He and his wife, Sharon, have been married for nearly 40 years. The couple has two children, Kevin and Emily. Kevin has pursued a career in public service and currently serves as chief of staff of a Los Angeles county government department devoted mainly to serving elderly and unemployed people. Emily lives in Chicago and is a clerk to a judge within the Social Security Administration judicial system. They enjoy getting together as a family when they can.
In their free time, Dave and Sharon make the most of living in Chicago. They enjoy sailing in Lake Michigan and keep a sailboat moored in one of the harbors in downtown Chicago. They also give back to the community. With their church, they serve on a team that prepares meals for homeless people.
Dave and Sharon also appreciate having a respite from city life. They own a home near Galena, Illinois and go there frequently. Both Dave and Sharon grew up in western upstate New York. They appreciate that the Galena area has a similar geographical landscape to explore with hills and lakes. “We love the city, but we also love the country,” he said. “Les deux sont bons,” he said, which translates from French to “both are good.”