Frank Bauer wasn't looking to be a trailblazer when he made an appointment at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center nine years ago. He just wanted the best prostate cancer treatment.
Little did he know, he'd become our first patient treated with proton therapy.
Finding the best prostate cancer treatment
Frank, an attorney who lives near Sulphur Springs, Texas, was researching prostate cancer treatments options online when he found proton therapy. Proton therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses external beam radiation made of protons instead of photons (e.g., X-rays to treat tumors).
"A couple of my friends had gone to California for treatment, but I didn't want to leave Texas if I didn't have to," Frank says. MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center was being built at the time and just beginning to consult with prospective patients.
On May 4, 2006, Frank began his first treatment. Now, nine years later, the Proton Therapy Center has treated thousands of patients. Its team of experts continues to develop the technology to help more people overcome cancer. These advancements include the most precise type of proton therapy, intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT). Our doctors are using IMPT to treat even the most complicated head and neck cancers, childhood tumors, lung cancer and more.
Frank's prostate cancer diagnosis
There is some history of prostate cancer lurking in Frank's family tree. So, he was sure to have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test at every physical. In 2006, when he was 61, the levels were high. A biopsy revealed early stage prostate cancer.
"I researched the other options, surgery and brachytherapy, and just felt like proton therapy was the least invasive and had the lowest possibility for side effects," he says.
Life goes on -- even with cancer
For six weeks, Frank was treated Mondays through Fridays. Since the Proton Therapy Center was not operating at full schedule yet, he had some leeway with scheduling and continued his career practicing law.
"Everyone went out of their way to be accommodating," he says. "My Friday appointment was early in the morning, and my Monday appointment was late. That gave me time to drive home to Sulphur Springs and meet with clients."
Frank stayed with friends in Houston, which he preferred to staying in a hotel because he had someone to talk to. His wife, who was county auditor at the time, was able to visit occasionally.
A winning decision
Frank says he had no pain during treatment and no side effects during or after. Nine years later, he is still cancer-free. He travels to MD Anderson twice a year for checkups. Blood drawn in Sulphur Springs for his annual PSA test is sent to MD Anderson.
Now 70, Bauer still practices law. As far as hobbies, he says he "sporadically plays bad golf." His first grandchild, a girl, was born recently in Nashville.
Looking back, he says he wouldn't have done anything differently.
"There are not guarantees, the doctors made that very clear," he says. "But I've had good success and no adverse reaction. I'm really glad I chose proton therapy."