Gov. Wolf: Doctors anticipate clean bill of health

Alyssa Jackson
  • Governor Tom Wolf was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February
  • He decided to go with brachytherapy treatment, or radioactive seeds, to combat the cancer
  • Wolf said that the minimally invasive surgery went without complications and early detection was key

By the end of September, which is national Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf could receive a clean bill of health.

Wolf, who went public with his prostate cancer diagnosis in February, had a brachytherapy proceudure about two months ago. The treatment involves injecting radioactive seeds at the top side of the prostate gland near the bladder. Sixteen to 18 needles are used to implant the seeds, and each needle contains two to five seeds each, according to Dr. Gregory Fortier, a radiation oncologist with WellSpan York Hospital Cancer Center.

Wolf said he went in for the surgery on a Tuesday morning and was at home resting by noon that day. He took Wednesday off preemptively, but he said in hindsight he didn't need it. By Thursday he was back in the office, with no major symptoms or side effects of the surgery. He attributed his quick recovery time to how early the cancer was discovered.

The governor explained the radioactive seeds have a half life of approximately 10 days, meaning every 10 days the amount of radiation in his body decreases by half. Since he had the surgery about nine weeks ago, Wolf estimates that he has less than 1 percent of the radiation in his body.

Gov. Tom Wolf addresses the crowd gathered for a Hillary Clinton campaign rally outside Broad Street Market on Friday, July 29, 2016, in Harrisburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

Still, his final checkup to see how the treatment worked on the cancer won't be for several weeks, though Wolf said he will continue to go in for his regular checkups and physicals. He said doctors are very hopeful about the treatment and anticipate the cancer will be gone when they do check.

Gov. Wolf undergoing prostate cancer treatment

"I don’t mean to make light of this because I know it’s very serious, but they got it early enough and its been a nonevent in my life," Wolf said. "It’s been an interesting experience how mild the consequences of the procedure have been."

He said the cancer treatment has not affected his ability to perform his duties as governor, thanks to the early intervention.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and one in 38 will die from it. The average age to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is 66. Wolf is 67 years old.

September has been designated national Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in hopes of educating more about prostate cancer and how it affects so many men in the U.S.

Wolf said that he's been very open about his diagnosis and recovery for the same reason: to help make more people aware.

Gov. Wolf applauded for going public with cancer diagnosis

"There were two reasons for going public," Wolf explained. "One is I wanted to be open. I think the citizens of Pennsylvania have the right to know what's going on with their governor. The second point is that for every male out there, this is something you’ve got to check."

He encouraged all men to continue to go to their regular checkups and physicals and to include the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in their regular bloodwork, because that's how his doctors first found out that something wasn't quite right. The test measures the amount of PSA in the blood. Though he said the PSA test isn't foolproof, it can alert doctors early on if there is an issue.

"I would urge everybody out there with a prostate to take this seriously," Wolf said. "Get regular checkups, because early detection makes the cure a lot simpler and a lot more pleasant."