After his uncle was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his 70s, David Phillips became aware of his need to be tested for the disease. Despite a low PSA, David’s urologist had concerns about his findings during a DRE, but it wasn’t until David moved and saw a new urologist that he had cause for concern: his PSA had begun to rise. He was then biopsied and diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer. He was only 51 years old.
“We need to help men be aware of prostate cancer.”
He decided to treat his disease with a radical prostatectomy and has had a nearly zero PSA since. Despite his course of action, David felt it difficult to decide whether he should wait – and risk that his cancer would be aggressive and spread quickly – or pursue this invasive course of treatment. He found many men his age, who were also prostate cancer patients, were battling advanced or aggressive disease. There was no set course of action for a man of his age, who was unsure how his low-grade cancer would progress. He knew it was a tough decision for a young man to make – with lifelong side effects and ramifications.
“Getting a diagnosis of Gleason 3+3 at that age is like seeing a fuse disappearing into a black box. You don’t know how long the fuse is inside the box. You don’t know how big the explosive is at the end of the fuse. Do you feel lucky? We need to be able to accurately identify the aggressiveness of a diagnosed prostate cancer so that young men don’t have to go through the pain and suffering of a prostatectomy if would be safe for them to wait.”
A supporter of ZERO’s Prostate Cancer Run/Walk in Greensboro, David does all he can to ensure that men discuss prostate cancer more openly. His wish that he could have known the aggressiveness of his disease has also spurred him to support advances in genomic testing, so that young men like himself can be informed about whether their cancer is aggressive or if they are safe to wait on treatment.
David works daily to remove the taboo that surrounds talking about prostate cancer, and hopes that sharing his story as a part of ZERO’s Heroes will inspire other young men to take charge of their health and be more vigilant about their risk for the disease.