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Frank Catroneo: Educating Men Through the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition

Frank Catroneo

In August 2006, my wife and I and 12 close friends went on a two-week European cruise for my 60th birthday. When we returned home, my wife surprised me with a lifelong dream: she bought me a brand new 2007 Corvette.  I had recently gone into semi-retirement, so I was looking forward to enjoying my Baby Boomer years.  Life was great.

All my life, I have taken care of my health.  I’ve had annual physicals since I was 30-years-old. I’ve been an avid jogger since I was in my 20’s.  I lifted weights; mountain biked and played tennis.  

I was the picture of health: I was never a patient in a hospital; never had a broken bone; in fact, I never even had a cavity! 

But, that year, when I had my annual physical, my PSA was 3.5. Although that is still in the normal range, since it had elevated from a 2.3 in the last 2 years, my doctor suggested I see a urologist. I wasn’t really concerned; after all, I was a healthy guy. I had no symptoms, no pain, no problems.

The urologist suggested a biopsy and a few days later, I called for the results. When he told me I had cancer, I fell to my knees.  I was in complete shock.  Hearing you have cancer is very scary.

For the next week, I was in total depression.  I could not eat, I had nightmares, and I was a total mess.  But I did not want to die, not now. So, I pulled myself out of my depression and decided I had to do what it takes to continue living.  I read for hours and hours through the night on the Internet.  I read Dr. Patrick Walsh’s book, The Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer.

But, the more I read, the more confused I got. I couldn’t understand why there were 6 different procedures to cure Prostate Cancer: surgery, seeds, high beam radiation, cryo, hormonal and “active surveillance.”   So I decided to talk to some doctors. With notepad and questions in hand, I had 7 interviews in a 10-day period with urologists, radiologists, and oncologists.

Unfortunately, different doctors suggested different procedures.  It was like buying a car: if you ask a Chevrolet dealer “what is the best car to buy?”, he will tell you to buy a Chevrolet; a Toyota dealer they will recommend a Toyota.  When I went to a urologist, he suggested surgery; the radiologist recommended radiation.  But which procedure is right for me?  No two doctors would give me the same answer.

I am not a doctor.  I sold cookies and paper napkins all my life.  So, it was very stressful to have to make a medical decision on the correct procedure to safe my life, especially because if you make the wrong decision, you can’t go back.  If radiation doesn’t work, you can’t go back to surgery. You have one choice, and you have to find an experienced doctor.

After weeks of sleepless nights, I decided on surgery: ”when in doubt, take it out” was my guide.

Then, I worked on finding the right surgeon. I chose a urologist whose primary focus was prostate cancer, who performed more than 3,000 surgeries, or about 4 every week. I had my surgery on December 27th, 2006.  It was painless, I had not complications, and, in a few days, I was home. 

Seven months later, I ran my 8th Peachtree 10K Road Race and was 3 minutes faster than the year before. Ten years later, my prostate cancer is still undetectable. And I am now the Executive Director of the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition.

I beat this disease and want to help more men do the same with early detection (PSA exams) and annual physicals. Our goal at the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition is to have all men get PSA exams and DRE at age 40.  Those at high risk should start these at 35.

My advice to men is to keep in mind that

·        PC is the 2nd greatest cause of cancer related deaths in men  (after lung cancer)

·        1 out of 7 men will get PC in their lifetime

·        PC takes a life every 18 minutes in America; an estimated 27,000 men will die in 2017 of PC.

·        In cases where PC is found and it is still localized, the majority of men can be treated and live a normal life.


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