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 prostate was.”
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.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.