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March 23, 2013

‘Positive Attitude’: Prostate cancer fails to slow county commissioner

NEW CASTLE — Dan Vogler believes doctors caught his prostate cancer early because of faithful annual checkups and screening.

The 53-year-old Lawrence County commissioner was diagnosed in the fall and has not missed a beat in county government since he began treatments.

He drove to a state Harness Racing Commission meeting in Harrisburg last week after one of his radiation treatments. Throughout his treatments he has gone to work daily.

“I go to my family doctor every year for a physical,” he said. The checkup typically involves blood tests.

In the past, his annual prostate-specific antigen screening was normal, and his primary care physician, Dr. Larry Fazioli, also routinely conducts a physical exam of the prostate.

“But this time, during the physical exam, he said something didn’t feel quite right,” Vogler said. Fazioli referred him to urologist Dr. George F. Daniels of Beaver, who performed a biopsy.

“He called me after that and told me that I have prostate cancer,” Vogler said, adding that it was at an early stage and had not spread anwhere else.

He was given several options: Wait and watch and do nothing. Have his prostate gland surgically removed. Receive radioactive seed implants in his prostate to kill the cancer cells. Or undergo external radiation treatments five days a week for eight weeks.

Vogler networked with people before deciding.

“A lot of friends knew others who have had it,” he said.

He said he chose radiation because it is the least invasive, has fewer side effects and would allow him to continue working without disruption.

Daniels put him in touch with Dr. Steven Wilson, a radiation oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Jameson Hospital.

The radiation process involves insertion of three tiny pieces of nonradioactive metal into the prostate gland, which guides the radiation beam to the affected area, Vogler said. He was given three “tattoos” —  markings where the radiation would focus. Each treatment takes about 10 minutes.

He gets his treatments at a Neshannock Township clinic near his home, en route to work.

Each day, Vogler’s discomfort level has slightly increased, with fatigue being the biggest side-effect. He feels achiness in his midsection, “but it isn’t exactly a pain. I have not missed any work so far, and I’m going to try not to,” he said.

As for his prognosis, Vogler is optimistic.

“I’ve tried to be very open with people about it. I’ve had good support from my children and friends. Your faith gets you through it, and having a positive attitude.”

Vogler said that telling his three children, ages 24, 22 and 17, was the most difficult part.

“I tried to reassure them that they don’t need to worry,” he said, but he has stressed to his family and friends the importance of regular checkups.

He is now more than halfway through his ordeal. His first treatment was Feb. 18, and March 15 was the halfway mark.

“My hope is that they’ve caught it early enough that this treatment will kill it,” he said, adding, “If you get to it early enough, it is treatable.”

His oncologist stressed that prostate cancer is curable “in an ovewhelming majority of cases. It’s one of the most curable (types of cancer).”

For those diagnosed with prostate cancer, Vogler hopes his story will encourage them.

“The key is that you have to put your fears aside and trust the specialists and staff people, and they will get you through it.”

The cause of prostate cancer is unknown.

“Just being man and being alive,” said Wilson. “There’s no predisposition.”

He noted that African-American men are more susceptible and tend to get more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, and at younger ages.

According to the American Cancer Society website, cancer org., screening should occur at age 50 for men at average risk. Those at high-risk — African-American men and men who have immediate family member who have    been diagnosed with prostate cancer at 65 or younger  — should start screening at 45.

 “Early detection is key in any cancer,” Wilson said, emphasizing the importance of screening at any age.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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