Making Local Medical History

And Making a Difference for Joseph and Marcia Pawlowski 

In July of 2017, Joseph Pawlowski of Webster made local medical history.

Joe was the first patient at Concord Hospital Center for Urologic Care to undergo a groundbreaking procedure that is helping save prostate cancer patients.

With more than $100,000 in financial support from Concord Hospital Trust generous donors, the Center for Urologic Care became the first in New Hampshire to begin using the potentially life-saving procedure, called fusion biopsy. The acquisition was a major achievement, because the fusion biopsy technology more accurately diagnoses prostate cancer at an early stage, saving lives and preventing patients from undergoing unnecessary prostate biopsies.

Dr. William Santis had been monitoring Joe’s low-risk prostate cancer. In 2017, Joe’s PSA, or Prostate-specific antigen, levels increased a potential indicator of more serious cancer. Previous traditional biopsies found no tumors, but the higher PSA prompted an MRI. The images showed Joe’s tumor was in the anterior, or front section, of his prostate, where it could only be detected with the enhanced images provided by the MRI.

Dr. Santis confirmed the tumor was cancerous by performing a fusion biopsy, which combines still MRI and moving ultrasound images to provide a vivid ‘live’ view of potential tumors, enabling doctors to precisely target biopsies and increasing the rate of finding significant cancers by 30 percent.

“The fusion biopsy was able to target this anterior location to identify a tumor which was of higher risk,” he said. The procedure made the difference for Joe.

“Before the fusion biopsy, they knew there was cancer somewhere, but they didn’t know how severe it was or the specific location,” Joe said. “They were able to find out, yes indeed, not only did it need to come out, but it needed to come out soon.”

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and the second leading cause of cancer death among men in New Hampshire*, making a more accurate method of diagnosing cancer very important.

Each year, the Center for Urologic Care conducts an average of 300 prostate biopsies, often based on rising PSA levels, which aren’t always caused by cancer. In 2016, before fusion biopsies were available, less than half of the biopsies discovered prostate cancer through the traditional method of obtaining samples from different regions of the prostate with no specific targets. Urologists recognize that the traditional method exposes too many men to needless biopsies and often misses small cancers.

The images that guide fusion biopsy help rule out some cases of suspected cancer, and more accurately pinpoint tumors to confirm the disease.

After Joe’s fusion biopsy, Dr. Santis removed Joe’s prostate gland and cancer, aided by the daVinci robotic-assisted surgical system.

Without fusion biopsy, the tumor might not have been discovered until the cancer had spread beyond the prostate.

“Dr. Santis saved my life,” Joe said.

* American Cancer Society