Pete Serratore: Minimally Invasive Surgery for Prostate Cancer

“I told my kids, ‘There’s nothing to worry about. I have faith in this doctor.’”
‐Pete Serratore

Believe it or not, my prostate cancer journey started with a tingly toe.

I turned 69 in October 2020, and soon after, my right big toe started tingling. I thought it could be an early sign of arthritis—I did martial arts when I was younger, which I figured could be the cause—so I went to see my doctor.

He ordered bloodwork, and when it came back, everything was normal except my prostate-specific antigen—PSA. It was high, a sign that something could be wrong in my prostate, so I had a biopsy done at another hospital. The urologist there took 12 samples, and six came back with signs of cancer.

The urologist did not mince words: “You have cancer.” He then asked when I wanted to have surgery. When I tried to ask questions, I felt like he was talking down to me and not taking my concerns seriously. Then he referred me to an oncologist at the same hospital. During that meeting, the oncologist just handed me a paperback book full of questions and answers about prostate cancer. I was done. I wanted to talk to a doctor who respected me and whom I could trust.

A Doctor to Trust

I knew about Fox Chase Cancer Center from a dear friend who had gotten treatment for bladder cancer there. One weekend, I filled out the “Request Appointment” form on Fox Chase’s website. Precisely at 9 a.m. the following Monday, an intake coordinator called me, and within a week I had an appointment to see Dr. Rosalia Viterbo, a urologic oncologist and surgeon at Fox Chase.

Dr. Viterbo blew me away. Where my other doctor had huffily answered my questions and tried to get me out of his office as fast as possible, Dr. Viterbo talked to me like she cared. She took an hour and fifteen minutes to answer my questions and explain her treatment plan.

She proposed minimally invasive surgery to remove my prostate, which meant using a robot to help with precision and sparing the nerve “down there” to give me the best outcome. I had never heard of robotic surgery before, but Dr. Viterbo said she’d been using this technique for 12 years. That fact, plus all the time she took to explain everything, gave me the confidence to put my life in her hands. We scheduled the surgery for April 2021.

Successful Surgery

Looking back, I guess I should have been nervous to have the surgery. I know my family was nervous, but I told them they had nothing to worry about; my faith in Dr. Viterbo was that strong.

The surgery went smoothly—so smoothly, in fact, that my only complaint was the discomfort of having a catheter in for a week afterwards. When Dr. Viterbo looked at my preliminary pathology work immediately after the surgery, she said she felt confident she’d gotten all the cancer. Two weeks later she called and assured me I was clean, and at every follow-up my PSA levels have remained at zero.

Advocating for Prostate Screening

Since this experience, I’m a big advocate for getting your PSA levels checked. A year before my cancer diagnosis, in 2020, I’d had double hernia surgery, which required tons of blood tests, yet my PSA was never checked. It’s something you have to ask for. I tell everyone to ask for it now, and if the doctors find something, to go straight to Fox Chase. Don’t bother going anywhere else.

Learn more about prostate cancer screening and treatment for prostate cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.