I have been a bit of a lurker here but finally decided to join up as I found something I thought was worthwhile sharing. After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I took to the internet to check if my doctor was okay or if I should see somebody else. It was confusing to see what specialists in Australia were saying. I personally found many of the websites to be suspiciously laced with self promotion and marketing but I decided to give a couple of these surgeons the benefit of the doubt. I saw one in the south of Sydney who seemed like he could not get me on the operating table soon enough. I was given the sense that my existing surgeon was less well trained and less experienced (even though he has been a urologist for well over 10 or 15 years and also works at a major public hospital). I also saw another who also seemed to be actively goading me to change over to his care and have the operation done by the robot. Maybe I am a bit too much of a sceptic but I went back to the old fashioned approach of asking around widely for personal experiences and my original surgeon's name kept coming back as a highly professional, kind, compassionate man who treated everybody - both staff and patients - like they were family. I have since had my surgery by my original surgeon and had a perfect outcome. Within months I have negligible leakage of urine, my erections are starting to show signs of recovery and most importantly my PSA is nothing.
This all said, I came across the blog by a Dr Woo and this basically discusses everything that I have been dying to say about the marketing of cancer in Australian websites. I suggest that all of you read it and use it to help you decide how you chose your surgeon. It is at www.surgicalopinion.blogspot.com This is something I felt worth sharing as my cancer story itself is not all that interesting given that all has gone well. I am just so glad that I did not fall for the hype which incidentally would have also left me substantially out of pocket with expenses.
It had never occurred to me to search for specialists. I simply took the advice of my GP for the first referral and from there all the way down the line (and, believe, it has become a long line) I did the same thing. I do not think I have had a dud.
What is most impressive is that they are all readily communicating with each other, ie. paying staff to type up and send out post-consultation letters to everyone else on my team, which is now quite a good starting line up and includes an oncologist, nephrologist, urologist, physician and a professor or two.
I am sure it has not been like that for everyone. But I do not think would ever have shopped around. I would not have known what to ask. I might read the article you linked to find out more about that.
This is one thing that i did do, I did as much research on my specialist as i could. I looked at the big picture, I was having operations on my throat, I didnt want to be paralysed or even worse. I had a family to think about. Then i had to have another operation later on down the track so i researched him aswell. I highly recommend doing this,I didnt want to just take my doctors word for it, I needed to be sure for myself....
Totally agree that it is worth doing checks and making sure you have the right person. I just think that all should be careful about using the internet to make our choices. There is a great deal of 'selling' that has crept into Australian surgeon's websites. Just do not take for granted that what they say about their background and qualities as the full package and ask for advice widely. This was my own experience where I had two surgeons I found with impressive websites who seemed to be more concerned about trying to get me switch from my first surgeon than looking after ME! I found a good thing to do was to ask my GP what he really knew of the quality of the work and also try to get contacts in the hospitals that they work to see what people really think. The nurses are the best when it comes to this! My experience left me feeling that cancer surgery is becoming tainted with blatant selling on websites rather than being genuine info and many of the public just do not know any better. They are frankly becoming advertorials. When I came across the blog I have linked to, he seemed to express some of my concerns much better than me.
G'day Mike 49
Congratulations on doing your homework, listening to word of mouth and going back to your original surgeon/urologist. For the bulk of men with prostate cancer, any urologist with some years experience should be able to do a good job on a prostatectomy. It comes back to relationship with the patents and their family, the full sute of ancillary services - continence nurse, psychologist - being available. Yes we have those who have invested money in getting a Da Vinci machine in and then have to recoup the costs by touting robotic surgery as better than anything else - sadly the retrospective data indicates that the outcomes are no better, the patient is just $9,000 - $20,000 worse off. However, whilst you did consider alternative surgeons, did anyone suggest none surgical procedures such as brachytherapy or external beam radiotherapy. We still have the problem that urologists are trained as surgeons so tend naturally to offer surgery and not consider other options. All men with prostate cancer should be seen by a urologist and a radiation oncologist working as a multidisciplinary team, that includes oncologists, nurses and physiotherapists. That is the gold standard, it happens for breast cancer and other cancer, it should happen for prostate cancer. Only then will patients be offered the most appropriate treatment for them as an individual. My urologist was a great man and he referred me to a radiation oncologist for brachytherapy with the words "At your age, with your background and lifestyle I am recommending this treatment. If you were ten years older and not pushing a racing dinghy round a course each Saturday, I might recommend surgery".
So get second opinions, but from different treatment disciplines.
Ah to throw off the shackles and fly with the seagulls
To where the green waves tumble before a driving sea wind. Eric Bogle, Safe in the Harbour
I'm glad I didn't read this before we were sent to our oncologist as after googling his name found quite a lot of reviews from people who didn't like him. May have had second thoughts about going to him from these but we have found him to be fantastic and up with all the latest research and treatment.We have found the exact opposite with regard to his manner and information he gives but that could just mean that only people with a gripe send forward reviews and not necessarily the people who are happy with their oncologist. I will now make a point of putting in a favourable review for him. People are often reluctant to thank people when they have done something good but are very quick to let you know when they haven't. I think thats the nature of the human race.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.