Rick Bartlett, prostate cancer thriver, hopes revolutionary advancements in cancer care will encourage more men to take their health seriously.
What led to your diagnosis?
In May 2017, I went to see my urologist for a regular PSA check. I was living in Cumberland, Md. with my wife and two adult children, working as a helicopter pilot for the Maryland State Police, flying medevac, law enforcement and Search and Rescue missions.
I was also an endurance cyclist, often riding up to 5,000 miles a year. My health was excellent. The only urinary symptoms I was experiencing was getting up at night to urinate. My urologist had treated me [for] over 15 years for BPH (enlarged prostate), which is quite common in older men and usually easily treated. During this visit, however, my urologist found my PSA level had increased to 4.3, slightly above the standard 4.0 threshold of concern.
Dr. Allaway recommended a prostate biopsy. Other than the minor BPH symptoms, I had no other indications of possible prostate cancer—such is the insidious nature of the disease. That biopsy, using Dr. Allaway’s newly developed transperineal PrecisionPoint device, was able to take 21 core samples of all four quadrants of my prostate. It found that 16 of those cores had some cancerous cells. The pathology report graded me as “Intermediate Risk.” This stage of cancer in the prostate generally should be treated within six months.
I thought, “OK, what’s the next step so I can get back to flying and cycling and living?”
Why did you opt for PrecisionPoint rather than more common biopsy procedures?
Purely by coincidence, Dr. Allaway had developed and patented the PrecisionPoint transperineal biopsy device in 2016. Once he explained its many advantages, such as about 30 percent better cancer detection, nearly zero percent risk of infection and reduced risk of potential complications, it was an easy choice. I feel very lucky that I happened to be seeing this particular urologist in a rural town.
PrecisionPoint performs a transperineal biopsy, where a biopsy needle must pass through the perineum. The rectum is avoided, more core samples can be taken with less infection risk and only a local anesthetic is given.
It was a simple office outpatient procedure. There was minimal bleeding, and virtually no pain. I walked out of the clinic and drove myself home. I was riding my bike a few days later and was back to work almost immediately.
Did you have any hesitations due to the procedure’s novelty?
Having had a longstanding relationship with my urologist, I was very comfortable accepting his recommendation. I think this is an important point for men over age 50 or so. You should establish a relationship with a urologist early on. If presented with a quick and relatively painless procedure that minimizes risks, men might be more willing to have a biopsy. Sadly, so many men won’t even undergo regular PSA testing.
How is your quality of life at four years in remission?
It’s tempting to say that I’m healthier now than I was before cancer. The aftereffects have been minimal. I attribute this to early detection via the PrecisionPoint biopsy, as well as strong physical conditioning both before and after surgery.
The summer following my surgery, in July 2018, I participated in the annual Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s “Empire State Ride” across New York State. Although I had previously worked as staff on this 540-mile fundraising cycling event, now I was a cancer survivor, so it had new meaning. I managed to ride more than 700 miles that week.
This past fall, I also led a group of 13 cyclists for a truly epic bike tour down the Pacific Coast Highway from Vancouver, B.C. to Baja, Mexico, covering more than 1,900 miles over 41 days.
Why is it important to you to share your experience?
I am all about sharing positive experiences. It saddens me that so many men do not take their prostate health seriously, or simply choose to ignore it out of fear or lack of current information. I saw the PrecisionPoint biopsy as a revolutionary change in prostate cancer diagnosis and I want desperately to spread the word to my male peers. Prostate cancer is not a death sentence.