Newswise — He’s a prostate cancer researcher who’s going through his second bout of prostate cancer. His message for men under 50: get screened now. Dr. Nicholas Cosford of Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in La Jolla, California is sharing the story of his life after his first and during his second round of treatment for prostate cancer.
This year 180,000 men in the US will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. June is Men’s Health Month.
Q: Can you share your personal connection?
Dr. Cosford: You could say that I’m fighting cancer on two fronts, both professionally and personally. As a research scientist at Sanford Burnham Prebys my lab is dedicated to discovering new treatments for cancer. On a personal level I’m currently undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, having been diagnosed with the disease the first time seven years ago at the age of 46. At that time, I had surgery to remove my prostate.
Q: Some doctors suggest men get screened for prostate cancer starting at age 50. You have a different view.
Dr. Cosford: Prostate cancer can be detected with a blood test that measures levels of a protein called prostate specific antigen, or PSA, a biomarker for prostate cancer. Early detection of cancer leads to a better outcome. The current recommendation is that men who have no close relative with the disease get a PSA test at age 50. I was fortunate because my physician started me with annual PSA at 40 and found that I had prostate cancer at age 46. That same year, my brother was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Q: Why do you think men avoid getting screened?
Dr. Cosford: Two reasons: one, cancer is scary. And two, men know the side effects can include incontinence and erectile dysfunction. The good news is that huge advances in both surgery and radiation therapy mean those side effects are much less common than they used to be.
Q: Tell us about the research you are doing in your lab.
Dr. Cosford: At SBP we are working on new treatments for men with advanced prostate cancer. Typically that means patients for whom the standard treatments—surgery and radiation—were not effective. Our goal is to eventually discover a drug that will help chemotherapy work more efficiently with fewer side effects.
Q: How is your treatment going? What does it involve?
Dr. Cosford: Right now I am part way through 40 sessions of radiation treatment. The treatments only take a few minutes but I go every day, Monday through Friday.
Q: What do you want people to know about your quality of life now?
Dr. Cosford: Outdoor adventuring is very important to my family. Since my surgery in 2009, we have hiked 800 miles, climbed Mt. Whitney, and gone whitewater rafting. I will watch my son graduate from high school this month. I am very thankful this Father’s Day. My message for men under 50 is: get screened for prostate cancer today. And don’t be afraid, help is on the way.