Department: Island Urology
Let’s Talk About Prostate Cancer: Openness To Encourage Early Detection
A year and a half ago, Matt Gill bumped into a friend he had not seen in a while. The friend confided that he had recently had prostate cancer and urged Gill to go in for a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.
Having recently turned 51, Gill, an Anacortes resident, decided to ask for the blood test at his regular check-up. While his PSA level was not extremely high, it was high enough to merit a second test. The result of the second test was slightly higher than the first which triggered a urology referral from his primary physician Dr. Thom at Island Primary Care – 24th Street. Receiving the referral to Dr. Mansel Kevwitch at Island Urology was the beginning of an unexpected, but ultimately successful journey into the stressful realm of cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Kevwitch was quick to order a third PSA test to determine if the previous results indicated a trend; they did. A physical exam was quickly followed by an MRI to see if the prostate was enlarged or showed any lesions that might indicate cancer.
The first trip to the MRI machine did not go as planned. As the youngest of four brothers growing up in Alaska, Gill had developed some claustrophobia which brought forth some unexpected anxieties when entering the MRI machine. “The MRI staff at Island Health were super kind,” Gill said. “I needed a larger machine with a little more space and a line of sight out the top to get my brain on board with the procedure and everyone involved was so helpful and patient.”
In the end, the MRI didn’t show much that added to the diagnosis, but the rise in PSA levels combined with a family history of prostate cancer—Gill’s father is a prostate cancer survivor and his brother was battling prostate cancer at the time, too—were enough to merit a biopsy. Unfortunately, the results showed cancer. At his follow-up appointment, Dr. Kevwitch gave Gill several treatment options.
“Dr. Kevwitch was amazing. He made it clear that this was my body, my cancer and my decision to make. He asked me about my goals and priorities,” Gill reflected. “We had very thorough conversations. They were matter-of-fact, but I could feel his empathy, too.”
Gill knew that surgery—radical prostatectomy—was his best option. His wife Sara was finishing nursing school in Alaska so Gill’s oldest and newly retired brother came down from Alaska to help him after the surgery and with his two children, ages 15 and 13.
Gill says the care he received from the minute he walked through the doors the morning of the surgery to his post-surgery physical therapy was phenomenal.
“All of the nurses and support staff were awesome, especially Nurse Yossarian,” Gill said. “When you see everything that’s going on in the unit, all the patients needing care and answers, just everything the docs and nurses are dealing with, it’s truly humbling.”
After a successful surgery, Gill started physical therapy sessions at Island Physical Therapy (PT), scheduled by Kevwitch’s staff prior to surgery. Kevwitch understood the importance of PT following the surgery and made sure Gill was able to get what he needed despite potential delays due to the ongoing pandemic.
“This was so important and super helpful,” he said. Now, he’s grateful to be cancer-free. When his latest PSA came back well within normal range, he felt relief and also gratitude for everyone that helped him in his cancer journey.
Should I get screened for prostate cancer?
Men (55-69) should have the choice to undergo PSA testing. It is recommended men talk to their provider to determine the best screening based on their individual circumstances.