Early Screening Helps South Amboy, NJ, Man Beat Prostate Cancer   

Early Screening Helps South Amboy, NJ, Man Beat Prostate Cancer

 Russell and his daughter Devyn at the baseball field, sitting and smiling together.

Family means everything to Russell Wood, 47, who lives in South Amboy, New Jersey, with his wife Celia and 6-year-old daughter Devyn. So when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer two weeks before his mother passed away from terminal breast cancer, he knew he was going to do whatever was necessary to fight it.

“I had a lot to lose, and I wanted to see my daughter grow up. I wanted the best possible shot,” says Russell. “I promised my mom before she died that I’d beat this cancer.”

‘Get It Out’

The most common screening tool for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Despite Russell’s young age, his primary care physician, James Demos, M.D., was carefully monitoring his PSA because prostate cancer runs in Russell’s family. After his PSA levels rose, Dr. Demos quickly referred him to Michael S. Lasser, M.D., director of Robotic Surgery at JFK University Medical Center, in spring 2022.

A biopsy revealed that Russell had early stage prostate cancer. When Dr. Lasser explained the possible treatments—active surveillance, radiation or surgery—Russell knew he wanted to opt for surgery to remove his prostate and the cancer.

“Dr. Lasser presented things in a very straightforward manner, and he was very clear about what my options were. As soon as it was confirmed cancer, my exact reaction was ‘get it out,’” says Russell.

One benefit of choosing surgery over radiation is that it leaves open the option of radiation at a later time if, for instance, the cancer is worse than expected or it returns. “However, the opposite is not always true,” explains Dr. Lasser. “After radiation, surgery is much more challenging with a higher risk of complications and is not always an option. Russell really wanted to keep all of his options open since he’s got many years of life ahead of him.”

Thinking Positively

Russell underwent a robotic prostatectomy (complete removal of the prostate), performed by Dr. Lasser at JFK. Undergoing cancer surgery is stressful in any situation, but for Russell, it meant returning to the same floor of the same hospital where his mother was cared for in her last days, just a couple of months prior.

Understandably, Russell was feeling anxious on the day of the surgery. “Being there was a bit trippy,” he says. Then one of the nurses recognized him from all the time he spent visiting his mother in the hospital. “She kept me calm and helped me think positively.”

Opting for surgery proved to be a good choice for Russell, as pathology results on his tumor upgraded his cancer from low risk to intermediate risk after surgery. Even though Russell decided against radiation at this time, it’s available to him in the future if needed. But for now, his PSA levels are completely undetectable. The surgery was a success. “He’s got a long life expectancy now,” says Dr. Lasser.

Back on the Field

Surgery performed robotically, as Russell’s was, has a lower risk of complications, less blood loss, less pain and generally a faster and easier recovery for patients compared to traditional surgeries.

“The recovery’s been good. I'm completely back to normal life with very few after-effects of this. It really is amazing,” says Russell, who was on the field coaching his daughter’s baseball team three weeks after his surgery and is looking forward to the season starting again this spring.

“I lost my uncle and my grandfather both to prostate cancer. I'll be the first male in my family that will have beaten this thing. That’s thanks to the work that has been done by my doctors and my whole care team,” he says.

Next Steps & Resources:

  • Meet our source: Michael Lasser, M.D.
  • To make an appointment with a urologist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
  • To make an appointment with a primary care provider to determine your risk and need for screening, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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