Charles, 64, compares his body to a car. “I need to take it to the body shop to get it repaired and put it back in order and keep going.” He says the key to keeping the car running is diagnosing the problems early. “The sooner you can find the problem, the better to get it out and move on,” says Charles. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Charles was experiencing symptoms—having to urinate more often and urgently, an increasing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level—of what eventually proved to be early-stage prostate cancer. But it was only after three biopsies that he finally had a diagnosis. “I was kind of happy they found it so we could take care of it,” Charles says.
This no-nonsense approach was precisely how Charles dealt with his prostate cancer diagnosis. Compared with many other cancers, prostate cancer grows slowly. When it is found early, there are a number of treatment choices available. Active surveillance, surgery and radiation therapy are the standard therapy choices for early-stage prostate cancer, and each has benefits and risks. Active surveillance involves holding off treatment and closely watching for any sign the cancer may be growing or changing. Charles says his feeling was, “If I’ve got cancer, let’s take care of it. Why do I want to wait for something to get worse?”
After talking with his physician brother-in-law, Charles began to research proton therapy as a possible treatment for his prostate cancer. Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy using protons to treat some types of cancer, including prostate cancer. When he reached out to a doctor in Minnesota, where he assumed he would find the best provider, that doctor recommended he visit Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. Winship provides the only proton therapy in Georgia at the Emory Proton Therapy Center, which celebrates its 5th anniversary in December 2023.
Impressed by the Tech and Staff
By the time Charles got to the Emory Proton Therapy Center, he was comfortable with the course of treatment he was embarking on. He had done a lot of research on proton therapy. “I didn’t question much because I pretty much had a lot of good information already on it,” he says. Fortunately, he also works for his own company, so he didn’t have to worry about taking time off for his treatment.
Perhaps due to being a longtime video game player who has seen technologies evolve, Charles was fascinated by the proton therapy technology. “You’re sitting on the table,” he explains, “and it’s kind of neat because you got this whole big machine that rotates around you. You feel like you’re in something from the future. As it rotates it first takes a scan, makes sure everything is aligned properly. Then it comes up, looks, and then takes about a minute to do one zap of the protons. And after that you’re off. It’s about a 15-minute process once you’re in the room. It’s really easy to do.”
Charles was also impressed by the treatment he received by the Winship staff at the Emory Proton Therapy Center. “Sometimes, when you go into the hospital environment,” he says, “you kind of feel like you’re just on an assembly line. You feel like you’re being treated like another number or something like that.”
At Emory Proton Therapy Center, Charles says people were very friendly—from the front-door staff to the team that ushered him through his treatments. He says he always felt that if he had an issue, he could simply talk with a doctor, nurse or physician assistant. “It was nice to have that accessibility,” he says. Any questions he had were promptly answered, like his question about a burning sensation during or after urination, which is a common, but usually temporary, side effect of radiation in the prostate. His care team told him to take ibuprofen, he did, and he says it helped.
Charles is now free to look forward to what comes next for his daughter, who has finished her schooling in Orlando, and to enjoy living close to his two sons and their two new children—his first grandkids. He has only good things to say about his experience with the Emory Proton Therapy Center.
“I would highly recommend the Emory Proton Therapy Center,” says Charles. “The people are great. The interactions with the people are fantastic. The teams are really good at making you feel comfortable. They make you feel welcomed.”
About Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Georgia’s National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, gives you access to the latest evidence-based care and clinical trials. Our experienced team sees more than 17,000 new patients each year and delivers comprehensive care to every individual. At Winship, we provide more than state-of-the-art therapy; we also offer cancer prevention, treatment, survivorship and support programs to all who have been affected by cancer.
About Emory Proton Therapy Center
The experienced physicians and specialists at the Emory Proton Therapy Center will work closely with you to develop the most effective treatment plan with the fewest potential side effects. If you want to learn more about proton therapy, visit emoryproton.com. Cancer patients, caregivers, or physicians with a patient needing consultation can schedule by calling 1-833-3PROTON (1-833-377-6866) where an Emory Proton Therapy Center professional will promptly respond to your phone call.