Stephen’s Story: Fighting Prostate Cancer with Early Detection and Innovative Care from OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center

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Stephen’s Story: Fighting Prostate Cancer with Early Detection and Innovative Care from OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center

Stephen Rogers of Norman never let life’s challenges get in his way. He has always focused on results and doing whatever needs to be done to ensure success. He dedicated almost 50 years to a career in international and technical sales, never missed any of his grandchildren’s school events and helped mentor budding engineering students at the University of Oklahoma.

He was also rigorous about getting his PSA test on a regular basis. A blood test called prostate specific antigen (PSA) that measures the level of PSA – a substance made by the prostate - in the blood. Higher levels of PSA in the blood could be an indication of prostate cancer or other conditions that affect the prostate.

When Stephen’s primary care doctor noticed his PSA numbers rising, he recommended a biopsy to determine what the problem was. His urologist called the next day and told him he needed to come to the office at 4:30 p.m.

“My wife went with me. As we're driving, I said, ‘When you're the last person scheduled for the day, it's probably not good,’” Stephen said. The doctor told Stephen that he had prostate cancer, to which Stephen immediately said, ‘Okay, what do we do now? Let's fix it. You guys are fixers.’”

After he and his doctor discussed the advantages and disadvantages of surgery versus radiation, Stephen decided to undergo radiation to treat his prostate cancer due to his age. After 45 radiation treatments, his PSA numbers had lowered significantly, but he still had to test his numbers every 60 days.

“All of a sudden, it started creeping back up again, so we went back for another round of radiation. My PSA had gotten up to 2.9 from negligible,” Stephen said. “After that, we waited 60 days to test it again, but the PSA was now 4.4. Even the doctor said that was bad.”

Stephen’s wife, a retired hospice nurse, and his son, an emergency room doctor, both urged him to call OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center to talk with their experts. He called and immediately made an appointment with urologic oncologist Dr. Kelly L. Stratton, M.D., FACS, associate professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in males that is important for urinary and reproductive function.

As one of the most common types of cancers, many prostate cancers grow slowly and require little to no treatment. Other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. Early detection of prostate cancer when it is still confined to the prostate gland offers the best chance for successful treatment.

Men who are 55 to 69 years old should make individual decisions about being screened for prostate cancer with a PSA test and should talk to their doctor about the tests and treatments. Older men, Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer may be at increased risk. Men who are 70 or older may be able to stop screening.

Finding Cancer Treatments That Work

Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center, one of 72 centers representing the top 2% of cancer centers in the U.S. These centers are known for being the nation’s elite for cancer treatment and research, so Stephen knew he had come to the right place.

“He came in and had a long history with prostate cancer,” Dr. Stratton said. “For most men, after treatment that should be the end of it. Unfortunately, Steve’s prostate cancer came back. That’s when we started our advanced hormonal treatment.”

Dr. Stratton discovered that Stephen’s cancer had spread outside of the prostate and into the pelvis. He prescribed a hormonal treatment called Zytiga to help keep the cancer from spreading any further and an injection called Lupron, which lowers testosterone. The treatment worked, and Stephen was able to do the things he loved with little effect on his quality of life, Dr. Stratton said.

“Testosterone is the gasoline for prostate cancer,” Stephen said. “I did those two regimens for three years, and after about a year, my PSA was down to almost nothing.”

Dr. Stratton took Stephen off the regimen, and for a year, Stephen’s PSA remained less than .008. At the end of that year, however, he got the bad news that his PSA numbers were rising again. Dr. Stratton put Stephen back on a combination of advanced hormonal treatments, something he will likely have to continue for the rest of his life.

“Steve is such a great guy, and he has such great energy,” Dr. Stratton said. “Whenever he comes in and needs treatment, we want to provide him with something that will allow him to do the things that are important to him. With advanced hormonal treatment, it stops the production of testosterone, so the cancer has no way of growing. You can achieve an undetectable level of PSA with this treatment, and that tells us he is doing great.”

Today, Stephen is an advocate for early detection and cancer screenings. He asks any man 45 years or older if they have had their PSA checked, and he spreads the message of hope to as many people as he can.

“You’d be surprised the number of men who don't even know what a PSA is,” he said. “I push when I talk to men and their families to get it checked. It's painless, and it takes only a day to get results back. Prostate cancer is easily detected, and it's easily treated.”

A Bright Future through Innovative Care

Although Stephen still has cancer, he knows he’s on the winning side with Dr. Stratton and the Stephenson Cancer Center team.

“I'm winning, and I'm thankful for every day,” he said. “I know that whatever happens in every person's life has within it the seed of something greater. I don't know what that is, and I may not know what that is until I get to heaven, but that keeps me going.”

Even with cancer, Stephen has no intention of stopping or giving up. He has continued working through treatment, has traveled to six of the seven continents, spends time with his grandchildren and continues to mentor engineering students.

“The advancements that Stephenson Cancer Center offers are allowing me to live, to survive and to enjoy all these things in my life,” Stephen said. “The kindness and the love that's generated here is why I've recommended this facility to anybody with cancer. If you are diagnosed with cancer, don't mess around. Come to Stephenson Cancer Center. They’re going to help you, and there are really wonderful people here.”

Learn more about men’s health services and prostate cancer screening and treatment, or speak with one of our experts at (405) 271-1632.