When Jack Cox listened to a friend with prostate cancer discuss his treatment options one evening, he had no idea a time bomb of his own was ticking inside him, too.
“I listened to his story. Then two months later, I was right in his shoes,” said Cox, a 58-year-old sales representative who lives on Union Street in Concord.
Prostate cancer has become the most common cancer among men today and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. This year, one in six will be diagnosed, creating a new case every 2.2 minutes in the United States. It’s estimated that 2 million men currently live with the disease in the country.
Although Cox’s diagnosis was the same as his friend’s, his treatment options were easier to sift through. A few miles down the road from where he lives stands the nation’s first hospital to be recognized for superior inpatient prostate cancer care.
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In December, Carolinas Medical Center-University earned the first-ever Disease-Specific Care Certification by The Joint Commission for its inpatient prostate cancer program.
The Joint Commission is a nonprofit organization that awards medical centers with the accreditation that’s often required as a condition of licensure by most states. It also issues advanced certification for disease-specific programs.
CMC-University earned the certificate in part for the program’s self-education and medication training given to patients post-surgery and its overall patient satisfaction measures.
The steps for the advanced recognition took several months to complete.
“The certification was quite an endeavor by the hospital,” said board-certified urologist Dr. Roberto Ferraro. “It took close to a year for our fairly large team to understand the certification process, choose the quality measures that we wanted to follow, accumulate the data, and then undergo a full review by The Joint Commission.”
CMC-University and CMC’s main campus on Blythe Boulevard treat the highest number of prostate cancer patients within the Carolinas HealthCare System network.
CMC-University competes with the larger downtown campus in numbers because of its high population of African-Americans in the University City area.
African-American men, or people of any ethnicity with a family history of the disease, are among the high-risk population who should begin screening between ages 35 and 40.
Although once part of a man’s standard panel of tests during a routine physical, in recent years physicians have been required to only discuss the option with their patients.
Because of his family history – Cox’s father suffered from an advanced case of prostate cancer and died of the disease in 2011 – his physician pushed for the test.
“The nice thing about prostate cancer is if we can catch it when it’s localized, we are very successful at curing people,” said Ferraro. “Once it leaves the gland and metastasizes, it is one of those cancers that has been, in general, resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.”
Three years after his surgery, Cox remains cancer-free. He credits the care he received at CMC-University with his swift return to life as he knew it before.
“I feel quite blessed to have had a good doctor,” he said.
Ferraro said the program’s new certification would help even more patients in the future. “We’re being recognized as we provide excellent care, maybe above the national standard,” he said. “But it’s also making us accountable. We have made a commitment to the care of these prostate patients.”