Piece by piece, 76-year-old Friedrich Andreas is methodically building an outdoor kitchen for his son in Charleston. Andreas said the project reminds him of a recent bout with prostate cancer – you have to take both one step at a time.
Andreas, a native-born German, moved to Charleston in 2015 to enjoy mild weather during retirement. When he’s not working on a construction project, Andreas advocates for other men to pay attention to their health and get routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings.
“The only reason I even knew I had prostate cancer at first was because of a routine PSA test with my primary care physician,” Andreas said. “It really can be the difference between life and death. I think that really speaks to the importance of maintaining routine visits with your doctor.”
Andreas has battled prostate cancer twice – first in 2018, when he had his prostate removed at another medical facility in Charleston, and then again in June of 2021, when the cancer returned. Andreas decided to switch his care to MUSC Hollings Cancer Center after learning that the cancer had returned.
“At the other facility in Charleston, I felt more like a number. While at Hollings, I felt like my team of doctors really cared about my treatment and outcome,” he said. “They told me about the tumor board, comprised of prostate cancer specialists, who would meet to review my case and design a program specifically tailored for me.”
Andreas first was seen by Thomas Keane, MD, a Hollings urologist specializing in prostate and genitourinary cancers. Upon results of a PSA test showing elevated levels, Keane referred Andreas to David Marshall, MD, a Hollings radiation oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer.
“My approach with any patient is that when that person walks out of the exam room, they should feel better than when they walked in,” Marshall said. “You do that through education and talking with them about their options and what to expect.”
Marshall said Andreas is among the Hollings prostate cancer patients who have benefited from improved imaging. In Andreas’ case, a device called an Axumin, or fluciclovine F18 PET scan, was used, as its improved-imaging capabilities can pick up on and locate prostate cancer recurrences better than older types of scans. Improved imaging enables doctors to provide effective therapy to the affected areas.
“That really helps us to refine our treatment approach by giving us a better understanding of where the cancer cells making the PSA are located,” Marshall said. “That lets us target our radiation therapy to limit exposure to otherwise healthy cells.”
In the fall of 2021, Hollings also began offering prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) tracers during PET scans to patients whose prostate cancer has returned in an effort to understand more fully where cancer cells are located in the body. PSMA is a type of protein found on the surface of prostate cancer cells.
“This improved imaging helps us to locate the cancer if it has already spread beyond the pelvis to determine if a radiation regimen is needed. It also lets us know if we should focus in on one area and provide a higher dose of radiation in that specific location,” he said.
Marshall said Andreas’ treatment for his prostate cancer recurrence consisted of 37 rounds of radiation over two months that ended at the beginning of September. Andreas said he is thankful for Marshall and his team of doctors who not only treated his cancer but also put his fears to rest.
Andreas said he fared well during radiation and didn’t experience any side effects besides being a little more tired. He continues to come back for checkups every six months to ensure there isn’t another recurrence. “There was no reason for me to be nervous or concerned. From the moment I walked into Hollings, I was at ease. Everyone was friendly and professional, and I just felt like I was in good hands. I still am in good hands.”
Andreas now shares his story with other men to raise awareness about prostate cancer. He said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife of 43 years, children and four grandchildren. It’s also a good bet you’ll find him with tools in his hand tackling yet another project.
“It keeps me busy and gives me something to look forward to. I also enjoy being creative, so these projects are fun for me. I’m able to complete them now, thanks to the care I received at Hollings.”