My case was a little unusual, since my problem started with kidney stones and bleeding. I’ve had a problem with kidney stones since I was in my mid-20s, and I recently had some pain, so I went to a urologist to get it checked out. The doctor recommended a CT-scan and some other tests, including a PSA test. The scan showed that I did have a number of kidney stones, but the startling news was that my PSA came back at 2.9, up from .07 the year before. “That isn’t a high number,” my doctor said, “but I don’t feel comfortable because it went up so much in one year.” Even though I had no symptoms of prostate problems—no frequency or urgency of urination whatsoever—he decided to biopsy my prostate.
As it turns out, he caught the beginnings of a fire. The biopsy came back positive for prostate cancer with a Gleason score of 7, which is on the high side. “It looks like an aggressive cancer, and you’re a young guy,” said the doctor. “I think this needs to be handled firmly by removing the prostate.” I felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat. I wasn’t even 50, and never expected be dealing with something like this at such an early age. My urologist explained that if I had the cancer treated with radiation and it came back, I would have burned my bridges since a radical prostatectomy would no longer be an option. He also praised the robotic prostatectomy procedure, and added that NYU Langone Medical Center had very experienced robotic surgeons, including a good friend of his, Dr. Michael Stifelman. “I think you should consult with him,” he said.
Fortunately I was able to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stifelman for just five days later. When my wife and I met with him, we were immediately reassured. He spent a great deal of time with us, answered all my concerns and questions, and put our fears completely at bay. He explained the entire robotic procedure and assured me that I was a good candidate for the procedure. I was glad to hear this, because the research my wife and I had done indicated that robotic surgery was a very precision-oriented approach that seemed to offer a good chance of regaining full sexual function afterwards in addition to urinary control.
Dr. Stifelman’s office and clinical staff timed all my presurgical tests perfectly. Everything was strategically planned and went very smoothly. Enioca, his office manager, handled all of my appointments and scheduling and was always available. On the day of the surgery, we arrived around 6:30. The staff was very helpful and courteous, and did a good job preparing us. The surgery was supposed to take four hours, but it ended up lasting longer due to the fact that I’d had an emergency colon resection done a few years earlier after my intestines had burst. That previous operation had left a lot of scar tissue in the area around my prostate. Some people had suggested that I might not be able to have my prostate removed surgically at all, because this tissue would make the procedure too difficult. As it turned out, Dr. Stifelman had to spend two hours clearing the scar tissue away in order to get to my prostate. It was a lot of extra work, but he was able to successfully clear a path to my prostate and remove it as planned.
Following the procedure, I was taken care of very nicely by the nurses and other staff. Dr. Stifelman came into the recovery room and explained that everything had gone very well, and that now it was just a matter of recovering from the procedure. The recovery process itself went extremely well. I had expected to be very uncomfortable, but I was shocked at how little pain I felt from the actual incisions. Compared to my previous intestinal surgery, I was virtually pain-free.
Today, I’m leading a fully active life and feeling great. One of my anxieties going in was that I might be incontinent for the rest of my life—but while I had some dripping when the catheter was first removed, it wasn’t long before I was almost completely dry, with no accidents. And since the operation left my nerve endings completely intact, I was also able to resume sexual activity with the help of Viagra, and sometimes even without it.
Six weeks after the operation I had a PSA test that came back zero. I know it takes a year until you can be certain, but it looks all the cancer has been removed. I’m really happy with what Dr. Stifelman did. For me, robotic surgery was a blessing. If you’re a young man diagnosed with prostate cancer, like I was—or even if you’re an older man—I feel it’s the best way to go.