Dr. Jim Smith, a general surgeon from Youngstown, was shocked when he learned that he would need to undergo a radical prostatectomy in order to stop his prostate cancer from spreading.
After 18 months of watching and waiting to see if the cancer progressed (what urologists call active surveillance), Jim’s own doctor told him it was time for action – he would need surgery to remove his prostate.
“In the back of my mind I was a little uncomfortable with watching a cancer that appeared to have progressed in a year,” says Jim. “After so many months of waiting, I think I needed somebody to tell me to get it done.”
Jim waited a full two months to tell his son, Mike, who at the time was going through medical school to become a doctor himself.
“I was so stressed out from my rotations that my dad was worried about what effect his diagnosis would have on me, so he decided to delay sharing the news,” says Mike. “When we did sit down to talk about it, he was very open with me and explained the process and why he was going forward with the surgery.”
“When it comes to health, I think as men we like to say I’d rather not know. In my case, I needed to know in order to make the right decision for me.”
As someone who is being trained in medicine, Mike knows that his chances of getting prostate cancer in the future are much higher now due to his family history. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. I wasn’t just fearing for my dad, but also for myself and my potential kids in the future.”
Jim had his surgery and when his PSA level was checked six weeks later they heard the good news --- there was no sign of cancer.
“When it comes to health, I think as men we like to say I’d rather not know,” says Jim. “In my case, I needed to know in order to make the right decision for me.”
His father’s experience has shaped the way Mike thinks about his own health.
“I think my generation as a whole is more comfortable with the idea of sharing personal info about our health. For myself in particular, I’m simply more open about it,” says Mike. “I learned from my dad that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and that’s something I plan to share with my own sons if I have any.”
Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute,
Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center