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Prostate Cancer Care Gets Personal

Friday, September 16, 2016 7:38 AM

A corporate strategist and former investment banker, Elliott Etheredge, 45, considers himself a highly analytical person who leaves little to chance. Yet, prior to moving to the Chicago area from Connecticut last year, Etheredge had unknowingly put his health at risk. He never had a standard blood test that checks for signs of possible prostate cancer, even though his father had the disease and family history is considered a strong risk factor.

Once settled in Winnetka, Etheredge’s new NorthShore-affiliated Internist David Donnersberger, MD, ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test—the primary screening tool for prostate cancer. The result came back showing a high PSA level in Etheredge’s blood. Follow-up tests, including a biopsy of his prostate gland, confirmed the diagnosis.


“Sure enough, it was prostate cancer,” said Etheredge. “And then, you start this whole exercise of ‘What do I do now?’”

Etheredge chose Brian Helfand, MD, for his care at NorthShore’s John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health after an intensive fact-finding mission. Along with investigating different hospitals, he also began studying the disease, reading extensively and talking with other patients.

“I researched different treatment options and doctors across the country. I looked everywhere: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and all over the Chicago area,” Etheredge recalled. “I spoke to eight different urologists and in the end picked NorthShore and Dr. Helfand.”

What impressed him most about Dr. Helfand, a prostate cancer specialist and researcher, was his excellent reputation as a surgeon, his knowledge and experience with prostate cancer, and the outstanding, collaborative team at the Walter Center.

Etheredge also appreciated the comprehensive nature of NorthShore’s prostate cancer program, including innovative research and the use of genetic testing through the Center for Personalized Medicine. The father of two children, including a teenage son, Etheredge sought a better understanding of the hereditary nature of the disease for future generations of his family.

“The program they’ve built at NorthShore is really unique because it’s so comprehensive and takes an expansive view of treatment and recovery—plus the genetic implications for your kids,” said Etheredge.

The Walter Center team—including Dr. Helfand and Nurse Navigator Martha McCurdy—guided Etheredge through the treatment process. The NorthShore approach includes an integrated team of cancer specialists and support staff working together to provide patients with an extensive, personalized care plan.

“We do a very thorough assessment of every case and involve the patient every step of the way before deciding what to do,” explained Dr. Helfand, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Options range from active surveillance for low-risk patients to surgery for patients at higher risk. In some cases, specialists use personalized medicine techniques, such as blood and genetic tests, to better predict a prostate tumor’s behavior.

A patient’s own preferences also influence the course of treatment. Etheredge—who is relatively young and healthy—and his care team determined that removal of the cancerous gland was the best option. Dr. Helfand performed the surgery using the da Vinci® Surgical System. In the minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon uses robotic hands that can easily maneuver through incisions the size of a dime. The robot affords greater precision, which results in less pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery for patients, including fewer side effects.

“I went home from the hospital the next day and that evening went for a mile-long walk,” Etheredge said. “The experience was very smooth.”

Smarter Screening:
Prostate cancer is the most common form of non-skin cancer in American men. At NorthShore’s John and Carol Walter Center for Urological Health, a multidisciplinary team of experts helps men better navigate both diagnostic and treatment decisions. Explore the different personalized cancer care options based on your specific risk or call 847.492.5700 (Ext. 1261) to make an appointment.