Radical prostatectomy can be a very difficult operation. The very best urological surgeons specialize in the prostate gland. They do a lot of these procedures annually. How do you find the right surgeon? The Prostate Cancer Foundation has published a checklist of things to consider before choosing the right surgeon.
1) First, locate a high-volume center that performs a lot of these procedures. Often this is an academic center. Not only are surgeons involved but supporting teams e.g. nursing, specialize in caring for prostatectomy patients. Websites that can help locate such high-volume centers include the National Cancer Institute’s website namely http://www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers/.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) also has a useful website for all types of cancer including prostate. See the following web address, https://www.nccn.org/patients.
2) Look for a place where different specialties work together in multi-disciplinary teams such as urology, radiation oncology, medical oncology and pathology. Since prostate cancer is not a “one size fits all” condition, one can get opinions from a team of experts who may recommend treatment modes other than surgery.
3) Ask the surgeon about his patient results. Does he keep results of his many patients regarding their outcomes, side effects such as incontinence and/or impotence, cancer recurrences, etc? Come prepared with a list of questions to ask as well as a detailed description of your specific condition and hopes.
4) Ask the surgeon to provide you with names of his patients who have agreed to speak to other patients about their experiences. If possible, contact some of them. This is helpful in demonstrating that the surgeon has many “happy” patients who comprise a support network to help prospective patients decide what’s best for them. Also check the prostate cancer support groups in your area and ask these men about their experiences and specific surgeons.
5) How many radical prostatectomies has the surgeon performed? The answer should be in the hundreds. If it’s something like “quite a few”, seek elsewhere.
6) Ask more than one doctor to recommend the best prostate surgeon in your area. Some doctors are in practice groups and therefore recommend the specialist in that group. That’s why it is good to ask different doctors in different practices.
7) Beware of the reviews or ads on the internet. The internet is full of false accusations or glamorization of surgeons, and specific hospitals and departments. One urologist said that online reviews are totally unreliable. This is not “Angie’s List of plumbers.” Medical groups or individual physicians may have ulterior motives or “good urology friends” who may or may not be the best choice for you.
8) Don’t worry about offending the doctor with questions or by getting a second opinion. Don’t be rude or disrespectful but don’t feel intimidated either. Do your homework. It’s your prostate and your recovery and your life. You don’t want to be one of those men who say afterward “I wish I had listened to good advice; my surgical experience was not as good as I had hoped.”