Dr. Theodore Lazzaro, USA
A Conversation With Prostate Cancer Survivor And Dr. Samadi Patient: Dr. Theodore Lazzaro
As medical director of Aestique® Medical Center & Spa, Dr. Theodore A. Lazzaro’s main goal is simple: to improve the quality of life for his patients. Dr. Lazzaro also believes in treating the whole person, building their trust, communication and confidence. And now as a prostate cancer survivor, he shares these goals with the surgeon who saved his life, Dr. David Samadi, Vice Chairman, Department of Urology, and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Dr. Lazzaro was diagnosed with prostate cancer via a routine PSA exam. At the age of 66, he had undergone regular screenings twice a year since the age of 60. Although he had no immediate family history of the disease, he did have six first cousins that were diagnosed with it. An initial screening showed slightly elevated PSA levels. However, having had previous issues with fluctuating PSA levels, he decided with his doctor to wait a couple of weeks before getting screened again. Upon this subsequent test, his PSA levels were still elevated so Dr. Lazzaro had a biopsy done with a local urologist. The results came back positive in three areas, including a Gleason score of 7.
Needless to say, the diagnosis stunned him; Dr. Lazzaro is a very active individual, who works out regularly, plays golf and takes power walks to stay sharp. As a highly trained surgeon with an active lifestyle, his treatment option was clear: remove the cancer with a robotic prostatectomy. To Dr. Lazzaro, it made sense to get the tumor removed and not deal with radiation therapy, seeds or watchful waiting.
“Being a surgeon, I know the evolution that robotic surgery has undergone despite the resistance it has encountered,” said Lazzaro. “Many people preferred either open or laparoscopic surgery because that’s all they knew and trusted.” Similar to Dr. Samadi, Lazzaro became a general surgeon first. He recalled that in the earlier days of traditional or open prostatectomy, it was a big surgery with substantial blood loss. Laparoscopic surgery brought about major improvements and finally with robotics, surgeons gained enhanced magnification of the surgical site, not to mention a 360 degree view within a confined corporal space. And the recovery? Minimal compared to those who underwent traditional procedures.
Once Dr. Lazzaro decided on a prostatectomy, he knew he wanted robotic. His dental school roommate had the surgery in Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, and “his post-operative condition was excellent,” said Lazzaro. Lazzaro’s own cousins had a variety of procedures to treat their prostate cancer, so they proved to be excellent reference points for the different options available. “And out of all of them, the cousin that had robotic surgery fared the best,” he said.
As an expert in bariatric surgery, Dr. Lazzaro did his research and reached out to fellow surgeons who were well-versed in the world of robotics. He got in touch with a representative of Intuitive Surgical Systems, manufacturers of the robot used in robotic prostatectomy procedures, who gave him a list of the names of the top five robotic surgeons. Dr. Samadi was one of them.
“Dr. Samadi was the clear cut choice for me, not only because of proximity but because of his experience, residencies and fellowships,” said Lazzaro. He appreciated the fact that Samadi could perform open/traditional, laparoscopic and robotic surgery, and that Samadi handles all of his operations himself from beginning to end. Other surgeons only did the “important parts” of the operations, though those “parts” were never clear. Dr. Samadi’s truly “hands-on” approach is what edged him out over the others.
Dr. Lazzaro was equally impressed with the responsiveness and professionalism of Dr. Samadi’s staff. He called Samadi’s office manager, Rosie, “a delight, knowledgeable and very customer service oriented.” Dr. Samadi himself followed up with a personal call, which Lazzaro found remarkable. Lazzaro asked questions; Samadi answered them and reassured him. Soon, a surgery date was scheduled.
Dr. Lazzaro finally met Dr. Samadi on March 31st, the day of his surgery. Lazzaro left PA for NY on a Tuesday, with the original intention of having the surgery on Wednesday. However, due to a scheduling conflict, the surgery was moved to Thursday, which gave Lazzaro a free day to sightsee in NY. Though Lazzaro stayed with friends, Samadi’s staff offered hotel, dining and entertainment suggestions and even a great place for a massage, of which he took full advantage.
“I really felt comfortable, having done my due diligence, and was confident with the decision I made in Dr. Samadi,” said Dr. Lazzaro.
The day of surgery went smoothly. Dr. Lazzaro spent an hour and a half in the operating room, then two hours in recovery. Once settled in his hospital room, he was cared for by excellent nurses, who even arranged for Lazzaro’s wife to sleep in his room in a bed next to his. Samadi encouraged Lazzaro to walk shortly after surgery and he found himself getting around just fine. In fact, Lazzaro’s wife snapped a picture of him, walking the halls, one day after his surgery – cell phone in one hand, foley (catheter) bag in the other.
Dr. Lazzaro was discharged Friday and he felt well enough to catch a play in the city on Saturday. “To see me, you’d never know I was in NY for surgery – I saw three plays, had lunches, dinners, went shopping,” said Lazzaro. “I’m originally from NJ and this time around, I thoroughly enjoyed NY more than ever before. My wife said she was exhausted from the trip – I even told Samadi I wish I had another prostate to remove - I had such a good time!”
Dr. Lazzaro remained in NY for 6 days until the catheter was removed and then returned home. A self-proclaimed “impatient” patient, at 6 weeks post-op, Lazzaro was happy to say he experienced zero discomfort, commenting that he had just returned from a week-long golf trip in Ireland, perhaps “sooner than I was supposed to,” he said.
Though not on medication, he is currently experiencing some incontinence but continues his active lifestyle with walking and exercising. Although the side effect is frustrating, it’s perfectly normal, which he acknowledges. He called Samadi’s office with concerns about his side effects. He was instructed to do pelvic exercises, which he is doing more religiously. Slowly, he says, he is getting better, acknowledging that it’s only been six weeks.
Dr. Lazzaro recently hosted a television show on the local Pennsylvania NBC affiliate that focused on plastic surgery. Soon he plans to feature a show on men’s health, with a focus on prostate surgery and Dr. Samadi as his guest. His goal? To have Dr. Samadi provide a demonstration of his surgery and educate men about the facts of prostate cancer.
“I want men to know that prevention is stronger than a cure,” said Lazzaro. “It’s better to be proactive, find it earlier, and if you are a candidate, to get it removed.” Being proactive is key, said Lazzaro, and so is being informed and surrounding yourself with talented, positive people like Dr. Samadi and his staff at Mt. Sinai. That, says Lazzaro, “is the recipe for a quality of life after prostate cancer.”
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