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River Falls Area Hospital

Neal Prochnow's story

Neal Prochnow and his wife, Karen, are thankful for Neal's quick recovery

Neal Prochnow and his wife, Karen, are thankful for Neal's quick recovery.

Neal Prochnow didn’t let surgery for prostate cancer slow him down. Prochnow, 71, is a River Falls resident and a retired dean and professor at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls.

Two years ago Prochnow discovered he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He needed surgery and had a robotic procedure. He spent just one night in the hospital and had “five small holes in my tummy covered by Band-Aids,” said Prochnow.

He’s doing well now and is monitored by his urologist, Robert Gaertner, MD, of Metro Urology, who specializes in treating prostate and other urologic cancers.

Gaertner sees patients every week at River Falls Area Hospital (RFAH). He performs minimally invasive surgeries with the hospital’s da Vinci robotic equipment. Urologist Christopher Knoedler, MD, accompanies him on robotic surgeries.

“The surgery team at River Falls is very skilled,” Gaertner said. RFAH offers the full range of services to diagnose and treat men with prostate cancer.

Gaertner explained that robotic Robotic surgery at RFAH ‘is the way to go’ prostate surgery offers important advantages over traditional surgery: less time with a bladder catheter; a faster return to normal activities; and most important, more effective removal of cancerous tissue. “As surgeons, our vision with robotics is meticulous,” he noted.

A month after Prochnow’s procedure, he felt well enough to snowshoe with friends in northern Wisconsin. “Robotic surgery is the way to go,” Prochnow said.

PSA test is crucial for early detection

Neal Prochnow’s prostate cancer was caught by a screening test called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). His PSA number, which was steady for 10 years, suddenly tripled within a year.

His urologist Robert Gaertner, MD, performed a biopsy and discovered an aggressive form of stage 2 cancer. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.

Men need to ask their primary care doctors for the PSA test, Gaertner stressed. “The only way to detect prostate cancer in a curable state is with a rising PSA test score or an abnormal rectal exam.” When advanced prostate cancer is found, “that means more aggressive treatment and a higher risk of death.” Younger men can develop prostate cancer, and any man with trouble urinating should be evaluated, Gaertner noted.

Prochnow’s experience made him an advocate for PSA tests. “It’s just essential that men get a baseline PSA,” he said. “My cancer would have spread if we hadn’t been monitoring my PSA.”

Gaertner offered these guidelines for PSA tests:

  • Men should be tested at age 50. Depending on the result, retest every year or few years.
  • Men with a family history of prostate cancer and African-Americans should start at age 40 and retest yearly.

Make an appointment with your doctor to get your PSA tested.


Source: River Falls Area Hospital, Healthy Communities Magazine, winter 2013
Reviewed by: Robert Gaertner, MD, of Metro Urology
First Published: 12/03/2012
Last Reviewed: 12/03/2012