Thomas D On the Cutting (Cyber) Edge – Thomas’ Story

“For me, the choice was simple,” says Thomas, who scheduled his first consultation with Dr. D’Ambrosio on August 6—which, coincidentally, was the day Barbara had her knee replacement surgery at Community Medical Center.

Thomas Dudek was enjoying retirement. When he wasn’t doing volunteer maintenance work at St. Barnabas Roman Catholic Church in his hometown of Bayville, he would ride his Harley-Davidson on the side roads along Barnegat Bay. “I have seven beautiful grandchildren,” says Thomas, 73. “They like to ride on back with me.”

But retirement can have its challenges. His wife, Barbara, was home in severe pain and needed knee replacement surgery. Then in April, after Thomas underwent a routine physical, his blood test results showed an above-normal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reading. His primary care doctor referred him to an urologist, whom he saw the following week. The urologist ordered a biopsy of the prostate and discovered that Thomas did, in fact, have prostate cancer.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he recalls. “I sat down with my wife and went over the options.” But those options at first were limited and burdensome. One doctor suggested radiation therapy, which Thomas was told would require 40 treatments over approximately two months. “I needed to explore other options, so I started searching online,” Thomas says. There, he found teaching hospitals 90 minutes to the north in New York City and North Jersey that offered less-invasive stereotactic radiation treatment for prostate cancer using the CyberKnife. To his pleasant surprise, Thomas discovered the same CyberKnife treatment at Community Medical Center (CMC), an easy five-mile drive away.

CyberKnife offers patients a treatment option that doesn’t impose on their lifestyle,” explains David D’Ambrosio, MD, Medical Director for New Jersey CyberKnife at CMC’s J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center. In contrast to lengthy radiation treatments, CyberKnife treatment is delivered in five or fewer sessions within two weeks.

“For me, the choice was simple,” says Thomas, who scheduled his first consultation with Dr. D’Ambrosio on August 6—which, coincidentally, was the day Barbara had her knee replacement surgery at Community Medical Center. As his wife was in the operating room, Thomas confronted his own health and his future. Prostate cancer is the second deadliest cancer among men after lung cancer, but most patients survive if they are treated before the cancer spreads, the American Cancer Society notes.

“When I saw Dr. D’Ambrosio, he put me at ease,” Thomas says. “He told me I was a good candidate for the CyberKnife procedure.”

Stereotactic radiation therapy, during which high-energy rays or particles are beamed to the affected area to kill cancer cells and destroy the tumor, is among the treatment options for prostate cancer. CyberKnife, which combines real-time imaging with precision robotic beam placement, allows oncologists to achieve “similar outcomes to what we would achieve with surgery, but without the cutting and anesthesia,” Dr. D’Ambrosio notes. What’s more, because CyberKnife is minimally invasive, patients can resume their normal activity immediately after treatment.

Before treatment with CyberKnife, a high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scan is taken to determine the size, shape and location of the tumor. The image data is then transferred into the CyberKnife system and used by the radiation oncologist to plan treatment. The radiation oncologist then guides a robotic arm to deliver high-dose radiation beams while the patient rests comfortably on a treatment bed.

“One of the key advantages of CyberKnife is its ability to precisely track the tumor in real time, while the patient is laying down,” Dr. D’Ambrosio says. “Patients are breathing during treatment, and CyberKnife can automatically correct for this. This enables us to deliver maximal amounts of radiation therapy to the tumor while limiting radiation to the surrounding normal tissues.”

Thomas noticed no discomfort during his hour-long CyberKnife treatments in early September—five in total. “It was very easy,” he recalls. “You’re in a room and laying still on a table, watching TV. Then you go home and do what you want.”

During the two-week treatment course, Thomas relaxed at home between CyberKnife sessions. About twice a week, a member of his treatment team would call him to make sure he wasn’t having complications. “The staff was so friendly,” Thomas says. “They made me feel at home. And every time I arrived for treatment, they never kept me waiting for treatment.”

Once finished with CyberKnife treatment, Thomas got back on his Harley and back to his grandkids and church work. He awaits a follow-up PSA test, but is hopeful that he is cancer-free. And as for his wife, Barbara? “My knee replacement surgery went well,” Barbara happily reports. “It took away the pain, which is what I wanted. All in all I’m doing OK.”