Patient Story

Harry's story: An annual exam caught this survivor’s cancer early

It was summer of 2015 when Dr. Harry McCarthy went in for an annual checkup with his general practitioner. During the physical, his doctor noticed swelling in his prostate and ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and non-cancerous tissue in the prostate. Blood tests allow doctors to scan for high levels of PSA that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Dr. McCarthy’s blood test came back with no abnormalities, but his doctors continued to monitor the condition with blood tests over six months. After a test in 2016 revealed elevated PSA levels, Dr. McCarthy was sent for a biopsy. The result showed no signs of cancer, but his PSA levels continued to rise, so his doctor put him on an antibiotic to lower them.

Under the recommendation of his doctor, in early March 2019, Dr. McCarthy underwent a special MRI called an MRI fusion, which includes both a standard MRI and 12-part biopsy, at a Northside Hospital facility in Decatur. Results came back positive for prostate cancer.

At 69 years old, Dr. McCarthy was not the first in his family to hear this news. His father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in his 60’s, but reached remission through treatment. Dr. McCarthy was told that while some cases of prostate cancer could be managed through active monitoring, others need treatment. Like his father, Dr. McCarthy had the latter case.

He consulted with Northside Hospital radiation oncologist Dr. Hamilton Williams and robotic surgeon Dr. Warren T. Oberle before deciding to move forward with surgery.

On July 29, 2019, Dr. McCarthy went in for surgery at Northside Hospital Atlanta. He received a robotic prostatectomy from Dr. Oberle in the morning, and hospital staff had him up and walking by the end of the day.

Northside Hospital is a well-run, well-oiled machine,“ said Dr. McCarthy. “Every employee was as good, friendly and helpful as they could be.”

While Dr. McCarthy could not bend, lift or twist during his first week home, he kept busy by walking around while listening to his record player. Now at 70 years old, he is retired and enjoys staying active, traveling and spending quality time with his wife.

It’s she and I against the world,” said Dr. McCarthy.

Dr. McCarthy will continue to visit Northside for blood tests every three months to monitor the cancer. Once he reaches the ten-year mark, he will be considered in remission.

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

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