Anthony San Filippo hiking
Anthony San Filippo
Thursday, February 1, 2018

Most men don’t want to talk about a prostate exam, but Anthony San Filippo is happy to say, “This routine exam saved my life.”

Anthony is no stranger to medical tests, having overcome a long list of health issues. “These last 17 years have been interesting,” he laughs. Anthony has had a heart attack, two back surgeries, and two bouts with cancer. It was just last year, when Anthony and his family still lived in Franklin County, that he faced cancer for the second time. He was at WellSpan Family Medicine in Mont Alto for a routine appointment when his family provider, Dr. Teresa Joy, asked when he last had his prostate examined.

Until that point Anthony, being a little young for prostate cancer, hadn’t thought he needed one. He agreed to the exam. The test results confirmed he was about to go through cancer treatment—again. “It hit me harder the second time because I knew what could come,” says Anthony.

Expertise & empathy

Anthony’s first cancer was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was diagnosed in 2002. Following a nationwide search for an oncologist, he sought treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 2012, Anthony had a revolutionary bone-marrow transplant. Now, he says, the chance of him dying from non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma is very low.

For his second fight, he was referred to Dr. Ashish Behari at WellSpan Urology. Anthony, who read about Dr. Behari’s career extensively online, says, “The guy was a rising rock star!”

While Anthony has great respect for his doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital, his first visit with Dr. Behari made a lasting and very positive impression. “He had a depth of compassion that was phenomenal and touching,” says Anthony. “He was so sorry I had cancer again. We felt that compassion would guide his intellect and his excellence and give the best solution humanly possible.”

A positive outcome

After reviewing his options, Anthony decided to have robotic surgery to remove the cancer. “With Dr. Behari, after we had a clear treatment path, I was at peace emotionally and everything came out fine,” he says.

Anthony is now a pastor, enjoying time with his wife and two grown children—when he can. “My plans for the future are to keep trying to welcome the gifts that God has given me and use them to serve God.” Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risk increases as a man ages, and if a close family member has had the disease. The most common test for prostate cancer is a digital rectal examination.

“The only thing I can offer is my own example,” says Anthony. “A tiny bit of discomfort during the exam is a small price to pay to see your kids or grandkids grow up—or to do your bucket list, whatever may be on it.”

Should you be screened?

The American Cancer Society advises men to talk to their doctors about whether prostate-cancer screening makes sense for them based on family history and other risk factors. This discussion about screening should take place at:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer
  • Age 45 for men at high risk, including African-Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) who was diagnosed before age 65 
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk, including men with more than one first-degree relative diagnosed before age 65

Prostate cancer symptoms

Some men have no symptoms. Others might experience:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Difficulty emptying bladder completely
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips or pelvis
  • Painful ejaculation
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