As soon as 64-year-old Brian Jones of Trumbull heard the diagnosis, he had one thought on his mind: Get it out. “I told the doctor to just cut it out of my body. It had to go; I had to get rid of it,” he says. “I didn’t want to take a wait-and-see approach, and I didn’t want to go through radiation. I just wanted it out.”
The “it” was prostate cancer. And it caught everyone in Brian’s family by surprise.
Following a routine annual check-up earlier this year, Brian’s primary care physician saw two significant changes in his patient. Brian’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels had risen and his doctor noticed some swelling. (See: “What’s PSA?” )
“Personally, I hadn’t noticed any symptoms,” says Brian. “And I was genuinely surprised when my doctor encouraged me to speak with a urologist and get a biopsy and an ultrasound to check it out, just to make sure.”
Not wanting to know the outcome, Brian admits he dragged his heels for a few months before getting the two recommended tests. Early this summer, the confirmation call came in from Urologist Howard Zuckerman, MD. “It was Dr. Zuckerman himself who called me and said, ‘You have cancer, and you have to come into the office,’” remembers Brian. Days later, Brian’s wife, Mary Jane, their daughter, Jennifer, and their three-year-old granddaughter, Olivia, accompanied Brian to his appointment. Dr. Zuckerman laid out the results and discussed the next steps. “I went in full of apprehension, but Dr. Zuckerman gave me real hope about my diagnosis,” says Brian. He wept with relief when Dr. Zuckerman told him that this wouldn’t keep him from dancing at his granddaughter’s wedding. Based on Brian’s condition, Dr. Zuckerman recommended surgery.
Urologist Edward Paraiso, MD then came in to speak with Brian and his family about minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery with the da Vinci® “S” Surgical System. “Mr. Jones was an ideal candidate for this procedure,” says Dr. Paraiso. “I knew how much he wanted the cancer removed from his body, and I felt confident that we could grant his request using the robot.” A successful prostate surgery gets all the cancer out, preserves potency and preserves continence, he continues. “This is actually known as the ‘trifecta’ of prostate cancer surgery.”
Dr. Paraiso explained the procedure to Brian and his family from start to finish, including the pros and cons and what to expect. “He drew diagrams and discussed every detail of the three-hour surgery. My daughter, who had done some research on her own, had lots of important questions to ask, and he answered every one. He didn’t rush us along,” Brian says. “What impressed me the most was Dr. Paraiso’s experience doing this surgery at Bridgeport Hospital! I was planning to have the surgery done at a different hospital farther away from home, but by the end of our conversation, I felt very confident in Dr. Paraiso performing the surgery with the robotic surgery team at Bridgeport Hospital, close to home. There was no way I would go to anyone else, anywhere else.”
With the robot, specially trained physicians perform delicate procedures through several tiny incisions with unprecedented precision. “Using the high-powered magnification of the robot, I can see the nerves 10 times clearer,” says Dr. Paraiso. “I can see the surgical area up close, as if it were about two or three centimeters, or about an inch, away. Through the incisions, using tiny surgical instruments that are half the thickness of a dime, I can move or cut a millimeter at a time.” Plus, he adds, patients who elect robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery generally regain full continence in half the time than those who have it done using traditional surgical methods.
Finally, surgery day arrived. Three generations of Brian’s family—his wife, his children and grandchildren— accompanied him to the hospital and waited during the surgery. Brian’s wife, Mary Jane, will never forget the very moment Dr. Paraiso came into the waiting area a few hours later. “When Dr. Paraiso came over to talk to me, he had a big smile across his face, and I knew it was good news,” she says. “He told me they took it out. I was so relieved, I couldn’t speak!”
After just one night in the hospital, Brian was home. “I wasn’t in pain, but my stomach felt tender and it took a few days to get over the bloating,” he remembers. “It was nice to be able to be in my own home, with my wife by my side.”
Three weeks after surgery, Brian was back to doing some gentle exercise and walking slowly on the treadmill. “Patients typically take about four to six weeks to feel back to normal after this surgery, but Mr. Jones felt better in half that time,” says Dr. Paraiso.
Brian returned to work shortly after. “It felt great to go back to work. And the flowers—wow! I was so appreciative of everything my team did for me. At the end of that first day, I couldn’t get out the front door, my head was so big,” he laughs.
“I thank my doctor for literally saving my life. I think about what I could have lost if I hadn’t had a check-up. I tell everyone to go for their check-ups, because you just never know what might be lurking,” Brian says. “I also thank God for the technology and medical advances available today, and for the experience my doctors and the Bridgeport Hospital team have—especially Dr. Paraiso.” Whatever the diagnosis, there are three things to remember, he adds. “Do your research about the options out there, choose a doctor or surgeon who really knows how to take care of whatever it is and have a positive attitude. If you believe you’re going to beat it, you can get through anything. Life is too precious to do anything different!”
Sturdy, Stable, Stalwart
A three-legged stool, thanks to its design, is sturdy, stable and strong. Each leg has its own specific function. Remove one, and the stool falls over.
The three “legs” of a successful robot-assisted surgery function the same way: the skilled surgeon who is specifically trained to use the daVinci® “S” Surgical System; the sophisticated robot; and—equally important— the highly experienced operating room (OR) team. “Bridgeport Hospital has a dedicated OR team that specifically specializes in robot-assisted surgeries and other laparoscopic surgical procedures. These men and women work like a well-oiled machine and therefore know exactly how to prepare for the entire procedure and what to expect at every moment,” says Chief of Gynecologic Oncology Masoud Azodi, MD
. “They take pride in their work and I depend on their attention to detail. Without their level of precision, the surgery wouldn’t be the same.”
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by cells in the prostate gland. Prostate cancer and other prostate conditions can increase PSA levels in the blood. The amount of PSA in the body can be measured through a simple blood test. “In general, PSA testing is recommended for men over age 50, or over age 40 if there is a family history of prostate diseases,” says Urologist Edward Paraiso, MD. “The beauty of the PSA test is that it can detect cancer early—well before the disease causes any problems in a person’s everyday life.”
When It Comes to Robot-Assisted Minimally Invasive Surgery, Experience Counts
You may have heard about robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery, but you may not know that since January 2007, Bridgeport Hospital physicians have performed more than 800 gynecologic, urologic, colorectal and cardiac procedures using this technology—more than any other hospital in Fairfield County.
“The robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery program at Bridgeport Hospital has been the biggest technological advance in urology in 25 years, especially for prostate and renal cancer surgery,” says Chief of Urology Arthur Pinto, MD. “For our patients, recovery time is dramatically shortened, so most can resume their regular daily activities in about half the time as with traditional surgical methods.”
Bridgeport Hospital surgeons who are trained to use the da Vinci® “S” Surgical System include:
When Choosing a Urologist, Be Sure to Select a Physician Affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital:
For information about these and other expert physicians affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital, please visit Find a Doctor, or call 1(800) 794-5013, toll free, 24/7.
Regular Check-Ups Can Save Your Life
Brian Jones is diligent about seeing his primary care physician every year. He tries not to think about what could have happened if he had skipped his annual appointment. Today, Brian reminds his loved ones about the importance of regular exams with their primary care physician. “I tell everyone to go for their check-ups, because you just never know what might be lurking,” he says.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your doctor, or if you need a primary care or family medicine physician, be sure to select one of Bridgeport Hospital’s 90+ affiliated experts. For a physician referral, please visit Find a Doctor, or call 1(800) 794-5013, toll free, 24/7.