Georgia's Online Cancer Information Center

Byron Rosenstein: Physical Exams Crucial in Detecting Cancer

Byron Rosenstein

Dr. Byron Rosenstein is an orthopedic surgeon who sees doctors every working day. But for nearly 15 years, he didn’t go to see a doctor for his own personal health.

Luckily, his wife, Debra, pressed him to go as a birthday gift to her.  Through palpation  - an examination using his hands – the primary care doctor felt a goiter: a swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland. That cyst was benign, but as part of the routine lab testing, a nodule behind it was found to be cancerous.

The diagnosis took him by surprise. He was 52, had no symptoms, watched his diet, exercised and wasn’t taking any medications. And he felt great.  He suspects that the cancer may have been an occupational hazard; that is, caused by exposure over the years to radiation without having the neck area protectively covered.

Fortunately, it’s a slow-growing, treatable form of cancer; his treatment plan involved surgery and radioactive iodine. The fact is, he still has some cancer in the neck to this day, but it is very slow growing and the doctors still watch it with regular blood tests and ultrasound.

That visit 8 years ago was enough to convince to continue with annual physicals. And, once again, it was through palpation that he was diagnosed, in 2015, with prostate cancer. His PSA test results were extremely normal, but the doctor felt a nodule, had it biopsied, and diagnosed prostate cancer.  He carefully explored the options, even going out-of-state just to get an opinion from someone outside his medical community, and determined to have it aggressively treated with robotic prostatectomy.  Around the same time, his wife, deb, was diagnosed with breast cancer and had bilateral mastectomies.

The crucial lesson Dr. Rosenstein now shares with others is that hands-on physicals are as important to maintaining your health as eating right and exercising regularly. He can attest that regular medical attention and early diagnosis can save your life.  Cancer has given him and his wife a new outlook on life: they now take more time to relax at the lake, travel to new place, and work less.  “You learn that life is short and you don’t sweat the small stuff,” he says. “And you appreciate even more being able to have a full, active lifestyle.” 

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