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Seeds Cured His Cancer

AGH Uses Brachytherapy to Cure Hermitage Doctor of Prostate Cancer


Morren Greenburg, MD, has long been the picture of good health. He runs every day, follows a healthy diet and keeps a positive mental outlook. It was little wonder, then, that he was taken aback when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago.

"Your first reaction is: 'Why did this happen to me?' But this just goes to show that cancer can happen to anyone. Once I had a chance to let everything settle in, I told myself I would have to depend on the people who would take care of me," said Dr. Greenburg, 80, a resident of Hermitage, Pa.

For years, Dr. Greenburg has referred many of his patients to Allegheny General Hospital's Prostate Center. It was only natural that he decided to consult with AGH's prostate cancer specialists for his own treatment plan. Together with Jeffrey Cohen, MD, a urologist, and Russell Fuhrer, MD, a radiation oncologist, Dr. Greenburg looked at a variety of treatment options, including prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate gland and surrounding tissue), cryosurgery (freezing of the prostate to eradicate the cancer), external beam radiation (the use of focused beams of radiation to target cancer cells), and brachytherapy (a minimally invasive technique in which radioactive sources contained within a metallic casing are placed directly into the prostate).

"Each patient is different and many factors must be taken into consideration when deciding on a treatment plan," said Dr. Greenburg. "You have to weigh in your age and physical condition. Because I was already into my 70s and I didn't want to be away from my medical practice for very long, I decided to have brachytherapy."

Dr. Fuhrer agreed that brachytherapy was an excellent treatment option for Dr. Greenburg. "Because Dr. Greenburg had early-stage prostate cancer, the likelihood was very high that his disease was contained in the prostate and the surrounding capsule," said Dr. Fuhrer. "As a result, he could achieve a favorable outcome without an invasive procedure. We decided to implant radioactive seeds into his prostate. Through this procedure, we deliver a higher dosage of radiation to the tumor without harming surrounding healthy tissue. For men with early-stage disease, the prostate seed implant will cure upwards of 90 percent of those patients."

In the weeks leading up to his procedure, Dr. Greenburg continued seeing his own patients and maintained his running regimen. "I had such faith in my doctors that I put my cancer out of my mind," he said. "As I have told my patients many times, you are training for an event. I wanted to be well prepared, both physically and mentally, when I went in for brachytherapy at Allegheny General."

Dr. Greenburg's procedure went so well that he returned home the same day. Two days later, he was back at work and within three weeks he was able to walk the same distance as a 5k race. He experienced few side effects—mainly some post-operative bleeding that went away within a few weeks. "All the doctors and nurses at AGH were terrific," recalls Dr. Greenburg. "I got great care in the hospital and once I returned home I could count on someone to call me back if I had any questions."

Today, he is cancer free and enjoying life to the fullest. Dr. Greenburg, who has been practicing medicine for 53 years, continues to see patients at Sharon Community Health. In addition, Dr. Greenburg and his wife Sherry still race competitively and both coach track at Hickory School District in Hermitage.

"I'm a firm believer in the health benefits of exercise," Dr. Greenburg points out. "Do whatever you can to stay active. For those who can't run, walking for 15 to 30 minutes a day is just as beneficial as jogging. It's also important to follow a good diet that includes fruits, vegetable, grains, fish and lean meats. And above all, quit smoking."

Dr. Greenburg strongly feels that early diagnosis helped to save his life. "Whether I'm talking to a patient or a person on the street, I strongly urge all men over the age of 50 to get an annual prostate/rectal exam, along with a PSA test. Prostate cancer is highly curable when it is diagnosed and treated early."

Men who have prostate cancer can find state-of-the-art care at the Allegheny General Hospital Prostate Center. AGH was the first hospital in western Pennsylvania to offer brachytherapy and its urologists were pioneers in the use of cryosurgery. It also is considered a national leader in the use of image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) for prostate cancer.

"We are known for our multidisciplinary approach to treating prostate cancer," said Dr. Fuhrer. "We have experts in urology, medical oncology and radiation oncology who help each patient sort through a complex process to arrive at the treatment option that's best for them. Once our patients decide on the appropriate form of treatment, we help them to return to completely normal function. Dr. Greenburg has responded very well to treatment and he has an excellent prognosis for staying cancer-free."

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