One of the most precious gifts Honey and Lee DeMaris give to each other cannot be wrapped with fancy trimmings.
“She and I get physicals every year,” Mr. DeMaris said. “We do it for each other.”
They believe that there is no greater gift to each other than good health. It is this understanding that has enabled them to conquer what could have been devastating news – Mr. DeMaris’ diagnosis of prostate cancer. When the couple learned that he had the disease, they didn’t flinch.“My wife is a big believer of: ‘If it’s there, get it out,’” Mr. DeMaris said. Mrs. DeMaris was the one who found Cooper University Hospital surgeon Raul O. Parra, M.D., after asking friends and coworkers who they would recommend. When Dr. Parra’s name was mentioned numerous times, the couple decided to schedule an appointment. Once he met with Dr. Parra, Mr. DeMaris made a series of appointments with various Cooper specialists for an afternoon in June.
On that day, his doctors spent several hours evaluating Mr. DeMaris’ disease and discussed options with the couple. The good news was that his prostate cancer was caught early before it could spread. They opted for a prostatectomy performed with the da Vinci® Surgical System – a state-of-the-art surgical advancement in the fight against prostate cancer.
Using the da Vinci robot, Dr. Parra performed a radical prostatectomy, which is a procedure that completely removes the prostate gland. This is one of the most common treatments for the disease.
“Compared to traditional surgery, robotic-assisted prostate removal uses smaller incisions and means less blood loss and pain, along with a shorter recovery time,” Dr. Parra said.
This system helps the surgeon’s movements to be more precise. Cooper was the first center in South Jersey to use the da Vinci and is one of the most experienced in the Delaware Valley. This procedure is just one of many state-of-the-art options that Cooper offers patients with prostate cancer.
Early detection saves men’s lives
“When we screen for cancer and diagnose it in its earliest stage, it leads to improved survival and cure rates,” said Robert A. Somer, M.D., Director of the Genitourinary Cancer Center at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Cooper.
“After talking with Dr. Parra, I wasn’t apprehensive at all,” Mr. DeMaris said.
Prostate cancer had struck Mr. DeMaris’ father. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease compared to men without a family history. Unfortunately, one out of every six men will have prostate cancer by the end of their lives. In 1975, only 67 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer survived longer than five years, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Today, most men are diagnosed at an earlier stage. The five-year survival after the diagnosis of prostate cancer is now 100 percent.
“This cancer was just a momentary glitch,” Mr. DeMaris said. “We all have to die of something, but this wasn’t going to kill me.”
Mr. DeMaris was admitted to the hospital for three days and was back to work within a few weeks. Today he is cancer-free and fully recovered. He feels healthy and enjoys chasing his two grandchildren, who are 2 and 6. He is well on the road to recovery.
“My care couldn’t have been better,” Mr. DeMaris said of his experience at Cooper. “Someone was always there for me every step of the way. How often do you come across care like this?”
What men need to know
The exact cause of prostate cancer is still unknown. However, men should do everything they can to help protect themselves from the disease.
- Ask the doctor about screenings. The decision to be screened is a personal one that should be decided by the patient and doctor. A man may need to be screened earlier if he has a family history or is African American.
- Eat healthy. Research indicates diet may be a factor for some men. Eat less red meat and fat, and consume more vegetables, fruits and grains. Five servings or more of fruits and vegetables are recommended to help protect against many types of cancer.
- Know the risk factors. The risk of prostate cancer increases as a man gets older. Their chances are greater if a brother or father had the disease.
Beginning at age 50, men who do not have any major medical problems should talk to their doctors about receiving annual prostate-specific antigen blood tests and digital rectal exams, according to ACS. Anyone at high risk – African Americans and men who have a father, brother or son diagnosed before age 65 – should begin testing at 45.
Men at even higher risk – several close relatives with prostate cancer at an early age – could begin testing at age 40, ACS reports. Depending on the results of the first tests, they might not need more testing.
To make an appointment with a Cooper University Hospital physician at an office near you, please call 1-800-8-COOPER to speak with a member of our physician referral and information service.