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A Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Needn’t Be Scary

Brian Dursum is a man who takes things in stride – a quality that comes from years of traveling the world and a successful 40-year career in higher education.

So when the now-retired 71-year-old Coral Gables resident and bon vivant globetrotter was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2017, he thought to himself, “Well, okay, we need to do something about this.”

Mr. Dursum’s primary care doctor had noticed an increase in his PSA levels [1] over time and referred him to a urologist for further tests. The urologist thought his elevated PSA levels might be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and prescribed some medications. Yet Mr. Dursum’s PSA number continued to climb.

The urologist then ordered an MRI, which revealed nothing but healthy tissue in his prostate gland. Still suspicious, he asked Mr. Dursum if he’d consent to a needle biopsy. Mr. Dursum agreed. Surprisingly, nine of the 15 separate biopsies came back positive for cancer.

“Nobody wants to have cancer – it’s a scary word. My father had throat cancer and I watched him die at 56 from cancer of the kidney and liver,” Mr. Dursum said. “But medicine has advanced so much in the past 15 years, with all sorts of new surgical techniques and medications. I was confident I was going to be okay.”

(Watch now: Prostate cancer survivor Brian Dursum talks about his journey, and Murugesan Manoharan, M.D., Chief of Urologic Oncology Surgery at Miami Cancer Institute, explains the benefits of robotic prostatectomy. Video by Anthony Vivian and Alcyene de Almeida Rodrigues)

Mr. Dursum was referred to Murugesan Manoharan, M.D., Chief of Urologic Oncology Surgery at Miami Cancer Institute [2], part of Baptist Health South Florida. Further tests confirmed cancer on the periphery of Mr. Dursum’s prostate, where it meets the bladder. Fortunately, it had not spread; prostate cancer has a high propensity for metastasizing to other areas of the body – especially the bones, where it can be even more difficult to treat, according to Dr. Manoharan.

Because Mr. Dursum was otherwise healthy and fit, and could reasonably be expected to live well into his eighties, Dr. Manoharan recommended against radiation therapy.

“If for some reason his cancer was to reoccur, we wouldn’t be able to use radiation on the same area later on,” Dr. Manoharan explained. Instead, he recommended robotic radical prostatectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that removes the entire prostate gland while preserving sexual function.

For surgeons, robotic procedures afford greater dexterity and precision. Patients benefit, too –

from smaller incisions, less bleeding, shorter hospital stays and faster recoveries. Most patients, in fact, leave the hospital the next day and are able to return to work within a couple of weeks.

Mr. Dursum evaluated his options and decided to go with Dr. Manoharan’s recommendation. His surgery took place in February 2018.

“Even though my only previous surgery was for a hernia five years ago, I wasn’t scared or worried at all,” Mr. Dursum said. “My blood pressure just before being wheeled in for prostate surgery was completely normal.”

His surgery went well, and both doctor and patient were pleased with the results.

“Mr. Dursum had an excellent outcome,” Dr. Manoharan said. “Four separate PSA tests over the past year have shown that his cancer did not spread anywhere else. We’ll continue to monitor him every six months, but I’m very humbled and happy to say he is cancer-free.”

Mr. Dursum said he feels great. Just a few months after his surgery, he was already back to pursuing his twin passions of travel and wine – first with a trip to Spain and then later to South Africa. This November he’ll be traveling to New Zealand, followed by a trip to Germany for the holidays.

“I have to thank Miami Cancer Institute – I had such a positive experience there,” Mr. Dursum said. “It’s such a beautiful building, too. Whoever designed it clearly worked with the doctors and staff to understand what they needed in order to make their patients feel comfortable.”