Carey’s Story – Robotic Prostate Cancer Surgery

Robotic Prostate Cancer Surgery at UCLA

Carey's Story - Robotic Prostate Cancer Surgery

Finding the Best Doctor for Robotic Surgery to Eliminate Prostate Cancer

Carey Melcher always took his health seriously, so when his general practitioner/internist saw that his PSA was slightly elevated at 4.1 during his annual physical, Melcher made an appointment for a re-check six months later as recommended.

Prostate Surgery Patient: Carey Melcher

However, prior to the six month re-test, Melcher was working on location in Australia, Melcher sensed something was wrong. It became impossible to ignore his constant urge to urinate. Every time he went to the bathroom, nothing would come out. Soon, this turned into more than an inconvenience for the busy producer, who was driving productions, campaigns and spots for such clients as Coors, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Ford, Kawasaki Jet Skis, Mattel Toys and the Tiger Woods Foundation, to name a few. 

When Melcher returned from his Australian trip, his doctor checked Melcher’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level to determine the health of his prostate and look for signs of cancer. Melcher was diagnosed with prostatitis, an infection, and prescribed antibiotics. But even after the symptoms subsided, his PSA levels continued fluctuate. For five years, Melcher’s PSA, which he would have checked every six months, would rise and fall like a see-saw always fluctuating in a range averaging around 3.5. His internist and a urologist suggested he do nothing – until January 2009, when Melcher’s PSA spiked from 3.5 to 4.9 to 6.8. Although one doctor suggested that the likelihood of cancer was only 15-20 percent, Melcher, now 60, figured ‘why take a chance’ and had a biopsy that revealed a malignancy.

Prostate Surgery Doctor: Robert Reiter, M.D. Director, UCLA Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research Center.

Concerned with both ridding his body of the cancer and minimizing treatment side effects, Melcher’s primary goal at that point was to obtain the best possible care. “I wasn’t as nervous about the cancer as I was about finding the right surgeon to remove it,” he says. “That’s what guys like me worry about. The thought of doing nothing, the possibility of the cancer spreading, requiring more invasive treatments in the future was the driving factor in taking care of this now. I read up on alternative treatments, discussed this all in depth with my wife, and for me, the decision was simple: I just wanted my prostate out.”

He talked as well with a handful of friends who had suffered from prostate cancer. Each had chosen different surgeries and combinations of treatments. Complications of their treatments varied. More scary to Melcher was that every one of the people he talked with regarding their own brush with prostate cancer, was that fact that each had consulted with three or more, and in once case, six doctors regarding varied treatments. “To me it was like eating to many flavors of ice cream at one time – they all start to taste the same. Who wouldn’t be a bit confused with all those varied treatment options and opinions?”

Melcher decided he wanted a doctor at the forefront of minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery for prostate cancer. He found Dr. Robert Reiter, a UCLA urologic oncologist and surgeon specializing in prostate cancer.

“The moment my wife and I met Dr. Reiter and spoke to him about the robotic surgery, we had an instant bond,” Melcher says. “Dr. Reiter understood I had waited long enough, I just wanted it out.” Melcher made his decision on the spot to have his surgery and set a date before leaving Dr. Reiter’s office.

Dr. Reiter had introduced at UCLA the advanced Da Vinci robotic surgery machine – technology that is minimally invasive and exact in sparing the nerves for patients with prostate cancer. “Who wouldn’t want to go to the surgeon who is a pioneer in robotic surgery and at the forefront of prostate cancer research here in the United States and recognized internationally, and continually researching new treatments for prostate cancer?” says Melcher.

He was in and out of the hospital in less then two days. “I had friends coming to visit me, at home, right after the surgery,” Melcher recalls. “One of my friends who also had prostate cancer surgery was in shock because I looked so great. He didn’t feel nearly as good right after his surgery the way I did. I was up and walking around. I know that had to do with my doctor.

After he recovered, Melcher threw a big party to celebrate finally putting the elevated PSAs and prostate cancer behind him. He didn’t have to undergo any radiation or chemotherapy, though he goes in for PSA checks every three to six months, his PSA level has remained in the healthy 0.01 to 0.02 range.

“Everything is back to normal and was very quickly,” says Melcher, now 66, who serves as a source of support for other men who are considering surgery with Dr. Reiter.  When he speaks to patients he explains the surgical process from a patient perspective from pre-opt testing to checking in with the surgical team the morning of treatment, to the caring staff at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center throughout the hospital stay.  “It’s a very individualized decision to have surgery,” he notes. “The most important thing that I always tell men is you have to trust your doctor.”

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