The Fight Against Prostate Cancer

Duke advocates share their stories during National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Duke Dr. Anthony Galanos was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 and just recently started talking about his experiences as a prostate cancer patient. Photo by April Dudash
Duke Dr. Anthony Galanos was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009 and just recently started talking about his experiences as a prostate cancer patient. Photo by April Dudash

Last year, Dr. Anthony Galanos decided to go public about his prostate cancer.Galanos, who specializes in geriatric and palliative medicine at Duke, participated in Movember, when he and other Duke doctors grew moustaches to raise awareness about prostate cancer and men’s health. He gave TV interviews to reporters and even shared details of his 2009-10 biopsy and treatment with his internal medicine residents.“Women aren’t the only ones who have healthcare issues,” Galanos said. “We need to pay attention to men’s health and not be so macho about it, and particularly men who have people depending on them.”September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, when men over 40 are encouraged to examine their family medical history and get checked for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America, affecting 1 in 7 men, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Around 2 million men in the U.S. are currently living with prostate cancer. In recognition of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Duke doctors and advocates share diagnosis stories, the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and what’s being done at Duke to advance prostate cancer treatment: Duke research toward a cureWhen Durham resident Sam Poley’s father was diagnosed three years ago with advanced prostate cancer, they sought treatment at Duke Hospital.During appointments, the Poley family discovered a Duke clinical trial in need of funding. Researchers had discovered that disulfiram, a generic drug that historically treated patients with alcoholism, could help treat patients of prostate cancer. In response, Sam began the “Give 1 for Dad” campaign, which is raising $1 million for the new study.“The idea is everybody gives a little bit. Nobody has to be a hero and give a lot,” said Poley, whose father passed away in July. “Maybe we can change the face of prostate cancer.”Dr. Daniel George, the Duke medical oncologist leading the study, said his team is getting close to starting the clinical trial as support grows. The Give 1 for Dad campaign has raised nearly $50,000 so far. “This is a war,” George said. “We have patients dying every week of this disease and these aren’t just patients with prostate cancer. These are my patients. I know these people.”Dealing with risk factors and diagnoses Duke Dr. William Berry was specializing in prostate cancer treatment long before he was diagnosed with the disease himself. In 2002, he underwent a prostatectomy.He said men should be aware of their own risk factors. Men with immediate family members with prostate cancer, older men and African American men are more likely to be diagnosed. Men also should maintain a healthy lifestyle by watching their weight and exercising regularly, he said. If a person is diagnosed, there are local support groups that discuss topics from incontinence to nutrition.    “Life is not the same as it was before that biopsy was done,” Berry said. “Men aren’t going to be exactly the way they were before the diagnosis, and they need to adjust their thinking to that.”The importance of testing It’s been five years since Galanos, the Duke geriatric and palliative care doctor, decided to get a prostate cancer blood test on a whim. He was inspired to be proactive by his older sister, Flora, who died of breast cancer. He never expected the results of his blood test and biopsy to come back positive. “All patients, when diagnosed or labelled with anything, are threatened by it,” Galanos said. “When you have a medical background, it’s actually a little bit worse because you know what could happen if it goes terribly wrong.”He underwent a prostatectomy in 2010 and is still navigating the side effects of that decision, to include bladder issues. But it’s worth still being around for his two children, now 27 and 31 years old, he said. “I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m doing everything that I want to do, and I’m still a doctor. I’m still a dad.”