Two-thirds of men with prostate cancer will be diagnosed at age 65 and older.
Not long after his 65th birthday, Bay Area resident Gilbert Khalil found out he had prostate cancer (read more and see a video about Khalil here). Like the one in six American men who develop this cancer over a lifetime, he faced a series of difficult decisions: Should he have surgery or radiation, or both? Or should he do nothing? Khalil and his wife, Stacee, wanted to know all the pros and cons for each option. The stakes were high, the answers clearly of life-or-death importance.
The couple met with Gonzalgo at Stanford to discuss the common questions men with this diagnosis often ask. Gonzalgo laid out various possible treatments for Khalil, who chose surgery after a couple of months of "painstaking discussion," Khalil said. "The key for me was catching the cancer early and doing something about it early. Some people younger than me may decide to not do anything."
Given the risks that come with any surgery and with radiation, many men will choose what the medical community calls watchful waiting. More than 2.5 million men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are alive today after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer, like other forms of cancer, can grow at various rates. Some men can live for many years with untreated prostate cancer.
For others, treatment is unavoidable – and the disease may resist all the traditional approaches. Last year, Stanford became one of a limited number of health care sites in the United States to offer the prostate cancer treatment called Provenge, the first FDA-approved therapeutic cancer vaccine. Built on research by Stanford physician-scientists Ed Engleman, MD, Ronald Levy, MD, and Samuel Strober, MD, Provenge consists of a patient's own immune system cells that have been power-boosted and sensitized to eradicate a certain prostate cancer protein. The technique teaches a patient's immune system to recognize cancer as an enemy, something once thought impossible. Such a treatment avoids the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and the risks of surgery.
Khalil recovered quickly from his surgery. "I've gained everything back," he said. "I was really blown away by how fast I was able to recover. It's a very difficult decision to make and nobody guarantees a 100 percent recovery, but I was very confident in everything I found here at Stanford."
For more information about prostate cancer surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, call 650-725-5544.