Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
When film buff Chris Lohman of Sturtevant received troubling news about his prostate, he resolved to find the best “production team” for cancer treatment in Wisconsin.
Chris Lohman is a Wisconsin state trooper who patrols I-94. Following a routine physical last January, his blood work showed an elevated level of prostatespecific antigen (PSA), a marker for prostate cancer. Chris was told not to worry, but he didn’t feel at ease.
“My PSA was 3.2. Maybe that’s fine for someone in his 60s, but I’m only 35,” said Chris, the father of two young boys. “I wanted a second opinion from the best in the state.”
After asking advice from many people, Chris met with Robert F. Donnell, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin urologist practicing at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin. A biopsy confirmed Chris had prostate cancer. “It was really scary for my wife and me.” Chris understood enough about prostate cancer, though, to know it was not an emergency — he had time to consider his options. “I got four books and read them cover to cover,” Chris said. “I completely engrossed myself in the topic. I wanted as much information about prostate cancer as I could get.”
Cutting Through the ClutterAccording to William See, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin urologic surgeon, Chris is typical of many prostate cancer patients today. “In the past, men who were newly diagnosed really didn’t know much about their cancer,” Dr. See said. “Now it is very common for a patient to do a lot of research on the Internet.”
Men may be at a disadvantage, however, when it comes to choosing a hospital or physician. “Some sources people rely on are really thinly veiled marketing tools,” Dr. See said.
How can patients cut through the clutter? Recently, Froedtert & The Medical College launched an initiative to help patients make informed decisions. Internal “quality report card” data for the Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program is now available.
There are two reports:
The Prostatectomy Report Card provides the most recent statistics on prostate removal surgeries performed at Froedtert & The Medical College (see excerpt in the table below). It includes important data on the number of procedures performed. “Several good studies show that high volumes correlate with better outcomes,” Dr. See said. “The more prostate cancer surgeries a physician performs and the more prostate cancer patients a hospital cares for, the better the outcomes are.”
The Quality Care Report Card measures the program’s performance against national cancer care guidelines and internal standards. “The take-home message is that we have a process in place to ensure the information needed to make a good decision is available,” Dr. See said. “Patients here are offered the full spectrum of treatment options.”
These report cards help highlight the importance of receiving care from an interdisciplinary team (urologic surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists) that focuses specifically on prostate cancer. This experienced team at Froedtert & The Medical College understands the importance of an individualized approach; the physicians know what works for one patient might not be the best option for another, and plan treatment accordingly.
A Decision“After I saw how they did things at Froedtert & The Medical College, I wanted to have everything done there,” Chris said. “I knew doctors who have the best results are the ones who do a lot of these surgeries. That’s why I chose Dr. See.”
According to Dr. See, quality outcomes go beyond cancer control. “Prostate cancer is different from most other cancers. It grows slowly, and most patients live for a long time. So, it is critically important to treat the disease in a way that minimizes side effects.”
Treatment risks can include loss of urinary control and erectile dysfunction. “We carefully consider which treatment approach has the most curative potential, while posing the least risk to quality of life,” Dr. See said.
After discussing his options with Dr. See, Chris chose a traditional “open” radical prostatectomy — which offers a good likelihood of cancer control and an excellent chance of avoiding side effects.
Chris had his surgery in April 2009. Although he had his entire prostate gland removed, Dr. See saved adjacent nerves that control sexual function.
High Stakes, but Time to Weigh Options“When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, he often wants to do something right away,” Dr. See said, “but there is time to gather opinions and solicit input.”
To help patients explore their options, Froedtert & The Medical College offer the Prostate Cancer Second Opinion Program. This program provides perspective on diagnosis and treatment alternatives that may not be available elsewhere.
When is it important to look at a wide range of caregivers?
“The more life-threatening the nature of the disease, the more important it is to identify the best doctor and institution with the greatest experience,” Dr. See said.
Efforts to share quality data help patients understand caregiver options better. Colleen Lawton, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist, believes healthcare organizations should embrace quality reporting. “It helps people understand what is advertising and what is reality; that distinction is not always clear.”
Follow Your GutChris’ long-term prognosis is excellent: “You’re never really ‘cured,’ but chances of my cancer coming back are very small.” Today, he feels great.
Chris has learned men need to take an active role in their medical care. “My whole experience just screams that you have to be your own healthcare advocate,” he said. “If something doesn’t seem right, get a second opinion.”
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: September 2009