We work with some of the most experienced urologists in the country. These doctor’s are not only experts in their field, but they understand what it truly means to work with patients to offer the best treatment options for them, especially when it comes to prostate cancer.
Today we offer you an opportunity to get to know one of those physicians a little bit better by presenting an interview with Dr. Cordell Nwokeji (“wo-kage”) of Houston, Texas. He explains why he became a doctor and how he got involved with HIFU.
What was your main motivation in becoming a doctor?
I sincerely enjoy helping and improving people’s lives.
When did you decide on this path?
I knew I was called to become a physician at the age of 7.
How did you decide on your particular specialty? Why urology?
I have always loved studying anatomy and examining how the human body works. I also knew I wanted to be a physician who could improve my patients’ health, and make a difference in people’s lives. I chose urology because I found renal physiology intriguing and challenging. I also enjoyed the prompt reward the patient feels after they have a problem surgically corrected.
What is your favorite part about being a physician?
Seeing smiles and appreciation on the faces of my patients and making a difference in their lives.
When did you first learn about HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer?
I first learned about HIFU as a prostate cancer treatment during my residency training in the early 2000s. I became involved in treatment HIFU patients in July of 2007.
Why did you initially become interested in HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer?
I became interested in HIFU because it is a minimally invasive procedure with a quick recovery time. Also, I was encouraged by HIFU’s ability to reduce complications by minimizing damage to the tissues surrounding the prostate. I imagined myself in my patient’s situation. I would prefer to have a prostate cancer therapy that allows me to maintain both erectile potency and urinary continence. Most of us would also prefer to return back to my normal life promptly after treatment. These are the benefits that HIFU makes possible for patients that most other treatment modalities are not able to achieve as successfully.
What do you typically tell a patient when they are first diagnosed with prostate cancer?
First, I reassure them that I will guide them through all of their treatment options and encourage them to ask questions. I tell patients, unlike many kinds of cancer, prostate cancer is one that is less aggressive compared to other types. Also, I’ll tell him that he has several treatment options when it’s found relatively early – all with relatively good outcomes.
What different types of treatments do you offer men with localized prostate cancer?
I offer men a variety of prostate cancer treatment options including HIFU, radical retropubic prostatectomy, prostate cryotherapy, radiation, and “active surveillance” which means following the cancer and deciding if treatment is necessary.
In your professional opinion, what are the benefits of HIFU as a treatment for prostate cancer?
The biggest benefit of HIFU is that it is a minimally invasive surgical procedure with minimal pain. Additionally, it is an outpatient surgery with the ability to preserve continence, and has less side effects on a patient’s erectile function compared to the other types of prostate cancer therapy. It is radiation free and less likely to cause the long-term negative side effects that one sees with radiation. Due to minimal collateral damage, HIFU makes it possible not to “burn any bridges” if retreatment is necessary. Patients are still able to have surgery in the pelvis with good tissue healing.
How do you decide if HIFU is right for a patient?
If patient has low or moderate risk disease, and they have a small to moderate sized prostate, they are typically a good candidate for HIFU.
In general, how quickly do your patients recover after HIFU? What do you tell men to expect?
I have had patients with desk jobs return to work 2 or 3 days after their procedure. I always tell my patients to still minimize their activities for 1 month. Due to fact that patients have minimal pain after their procedure, they are usually tempted to push themselves physically. I always remind them that they still need to heal. In order to prevent any complications, even though they feel great, they should still treat their bodies as if they had major surgery. I also tell them to expect a return to normal urination after 2 to 3 weeks.
There are obviously a lot of different treatments for prostate cancer; where do you think HIFU best fits in the prostate cancer landscape?
Patients with low or moderate risk disease who are motivated in maintaining a relatively normal lifestyle after surgery are the best candidates for HIFU. Additionally, patients who are currently enrolled in active surveillance protocol in the management of prostate cancer with small volume unilateral disease will fare well with partial gland treatment.
In recent years there has been some discussion about over treating prostate cancer and even changing guidelines on when men should start getting regular screening for prostate cancer. What do you tell men?
I tell patients that since the advent of Prostate Specific Antigen test (or “PSA”), retrospective studies have shown a reduction of prostate cancer deaths by 30 percent. Not every small volume, low risk disease, remains that way. In order to determine how a patient may fare long term, I encourage genetic studies on their disease in order to know its aggressiveness. Also, patients who have anxiety about their low risk, small volume cancers, but are also good candidates for active surveillance, can find a middle ground with focal or prostate tissue sparing HIFU procedure. It has minimal side effects on continence and erectile function, while preserving of their quality of life.
When you aren’t practicing medicine what do you like to do?
Like many people with school-aged children, my hobbies right now are whatever my children are into. I love spending my down time with my family and I love being involved in my kids’ activities.