Atlanta surgeon learns tough lesson: go see your doctor

Byron Rosenstein is a doctor who wasn't so good at going to the doctor.

"Raising kids and seeing patients, I wasn't trying to be a he-man, or macho," Rosenstein says. " I didn't have any symptoms. And, we all know life is busy, not just for doctors, but for everyone."

Working as a surgeon with Resurgens Orthopaedics, Rosenstein was in his early 50s, healthy, taking care of himself, running marathons, for fun.

He was so busy, in fact, he went at least a decade without seeing his own doctor.

"I'm definitely guilty of that as charged," he says. "It was probably closer to 15 years, if I am honest."

Then, 7 years ago, when Rosenstein was 52, his wife Deb played the birthday card.

"Yeah, I just told him I wanted him to go to the doctor to get a checkup, for my birthday," Deb Rosenstein says. "And he finally went."

Her timing was just about perfect.

During that checkup, Rosenstein's doctor felt a nodule on his thyroid gland in his neck.

A surgeon removed part of his thyroid and biopsied it. It was malignant. So, the surgeon went back in and removed what remained of the gland.

"And, when he was in recovery, I said, 'Honey, you have cancer,'" says Deb Rosenstein. "And, he said, 'No, I don't!' I said, 'Yeah, you do!'"

"Once you get the diagnosis of cancer, it changes things," says Dr. Rosenstein. "And I've been very compliant and cooperative patient since that point. We made a deal I'd go see the doctor yearly from that point on."

Rosenstein was treated with radioactive iodine to destroy any remaining cancer.

Five years passed, Then, at another checkup, his doctor felt another lump, this time in his prostate gland.

"And it was based on a regular exam, because I did what I said I was going to do," Rosenstein remembers. "And the doctor did an exam. My PSA was 0.7, which was entirely normal."

Now, facing prostate cancer, Dr. Rosenstein came to see his friend and colleague Dr. Scott Miller at Georgia Urology.

"The options for prostate cancer are really many," says Dr. Miller. "Some men don't need any treatment at all."

But, because of the type of cancer Rosenstein had, Miller recommended a more aggressive approach.

"For someone his age and his great health, probably removal is the most common option," Miller says. "But radiation is another very effective way of treating prostate cancer in someone like him."

Rosenstein chose to undergo a robotic prostatectomy, surgical removal of his prostate gland.

"And I think now because of what's happened, he's more aware of his body," says his wife Deb. "Now, every bump on his body, he's like, 'I wonder what this could be?"

Byron Rosenstein says the experience has made him a better doctor. He is grateful for his wife's push to get his checkups.

Each time, his cancers were caught early, before they'd had a chance to spread.

The experience taught him a lesson. You can never be too busy to take care of your health.

"We are, all of us mortal, and none of us invincible," Rosenstein says. "It's really simple, early diagnosis will save lives, doctors or otherwise."