A cancer diagnosis motivates one man to build awareness and frank conversation
about prostate care.
The prostate isn’t usually the subject of casual conversation for
most people, but then most people aren’t Jim Bowman.
“Within the last week or so, I had four guys come up to me and say
they had their prostate checked,” says the 72-year-old Anaheim Hills resident.
People aren’t sharing their medical background with Bowman because
he’s a doctor—he’s not—but because he’s
a crusader for greater prostate health awareness, a cause he took on after
his prostate cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
“I want men to feel comfortable talking openly about prostate cancer
with friends or family,” Bowman says. “I’ve had people
say they didn’t want to go to the doctor because they would be told
they had prostate cancer or they didn’t want to go through the exam
because they’d feel violated. But if we are more open, men will
unlock that attitude of not wanting to talk about their prostate and will
go to the doctor. It’s a simple goal for me.”
It’s a goal based on personal experience. Bowman went to the doctor
because he was urinating more frequently at night. A rectal exam and other
tests determined his prostate was slightly enlarged and irregularly shaped,
and his primary care physician took a "watch and wait" approach,
which is common. Then Bowman applied for new life insurance and was turned
down because of his prostate. To get clearance for the insurance, he went
back for a biopsy. In March of this year,
William Pearce, MD, a board-certified urologist with
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group, told Bowman he had cancer.
“Fortunately we caught it early and all the cancer was located in
the prostate; it hadn’t gone into other parts of the body,”
Bowman says. “Dr. Pearce gave me options: wait and see if it gets
worse, radiation or surgery. My wife, Kathi, and I made the decision in
the office to choose surgery. That was a personal choice. I didn’t
like cancer being in my body, period.”
Bowman underwent surgery at
St. Joseph Hospital, Orange in April. “St. Joseph was absolutely outstanding—they were
so supportive, so on point, so caring,” Bowman says. After a brief
stay in the hospital, Bowman began convalescing at home, which wasn’t easy.
“Walking was tough, getting around wasn’t great, and my diet
was more liquid than anything else. The real problem I had was the absence
of the prostate; there was no way to control urine. So I had to go through
physical therapy at St. Joseph. They taught me Kegel and other exercises
and they were very supportive. While I was there I started thinking about
how much I knew about the prostate and prostate cancer. My dad and uncle
had it, I had friends who had it, but no one was talking about it. I made
the decision that if I could get through this, I wanted to create awareness
about prostate health.”
To do that, Bowman started bringing up the subject with friends. “I
found out the more open I was, the more open they seemed to be,”
he says. He also got information on prostate health from his physical
therapist and the American Cancer Society.
“There’s a lot I didn’t know,” Bowman says. “The
prostate is the size of a walnut and sits under the bladder. I didn’t
know it controls semen and urine flow; I didn’t know the important
part it plays in reproduction. I didn’t realize how important the
Bowman recently held his first awareness outreach event in partnership
with his church, Second Baptist Church of Santa Ana, and plans to hold
another one in the first quarter of 2018. “There were lots of questions,
shared experiences, medical advice and valuable printed information that
helped make the experience both rewarding and informative,” Bowman says.
Dr. Pearce commends his patient for his efforts. “Men are often unaware
of the prostate function and risk factors for prostate cancers. It is
important to educate them about those issues with programs like Mr. Bowman’s,”
Dr. Pearce says. “He has been an excellent patient who has been
actively involved and engaged in every step of his treatment. I am sure
he will pass along his knowledge and experience to other patients.”
Prostate Cancer: What You Need to Know
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men aside from skin cancer,
according to the American Cancer Society.
- Risk factors include advanced age, genetic mutation and family history
of the disease.
- Screening for prostate cancer includes a digital rectal exam and testing
for elevated levels of prostate-specific antigens.
- There are different opinions on when men should consider prostate cancer
screening; for instance, the American Cancer Society suggests age 50 for
men with no risks and between ages 40 and 45 for men with high risks.
If you have questions about your prostate health, talk about your health
history and concerns with your doctor to develop a plan. If you are looking
for a physician in your area, visit our
Find a Doctor page.