A Tale of Two Brothers: Prostate Cancer and Surgery

BIDMC Contributor

JUNE 25, 2019

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From left: Derrel Hollins and Bryant Hollins shared the same healthcare team after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Two years ago, 57-year-old Derrel Hollins was waking up three or more times a night to go to the bathroom. “It felt like I never fully emptied my bladder and the frequent urination was disrupting my life,” he says.

He knew these symptoms could be a sign of a prostate condition and made an appointment with his primary care doctor. “Prostate cancer runs in my family. My father and a few other relatives have had it, and most recently, my brother,” he says.

His brother, 55-year-old Bryant Hollins, encouraged Derrel to ask for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level testing. “I knew from experience that this can happen quickly,” he explains.

After Derrel’s bloodwork showed an elevated level of PSA, a biopsy confirmed one of his biggest fears—he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2017—just five months after his brother, Bryant, completed treatment.

“We live clean and healthy lives,” Derrel says. “I’ve been a trainer and fitness instructor for more than 30 years. I did everything right and I couldn’t comprehend why this was happening to me.”

“There’s a fear of the unknown,” Bryant adds. “Our family is very supportive but that doesn’t lessen the shock of a cancer diagnosis.”

Just as they shared most things growing up, the brothers shared their healthcare team from the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “We had similar situations where waiting was not an option. Both of us required surgery and I knew BIDMC was the place for it after watching my brother’s successful experience,” Derrel says.

Andrew A. Wagner, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery at BIDMC, performed a robotic-assisted prostatectomy on both brothers to remove their prostate completely.

“Robotic surgery to remove the prostate is one of several common and successful treatment options for men with prostate cancer,” Wagner says. “For the Hollins brothers, this was the best option as they were both active and healthy. Their cancer was localized, so we could completely remove the cancer using minimally invasive surgery and avoid damaging nearby muscle and nerves that are important in urinary and sexual health.”

Bryant and Derrel both recovered well and have been truly grateful for their care at BIDMC.

“Everyone was comforting, caring and kept me relaxed,” Bryant says. “There are things that can’t be taught, and one of those is sincerity. I truly felt cared for in such a natural way. It still brings a smile to my face.”

The two encourage other men to have their PSA levels checked early and often; in particular, they encourage African American men to ask for prostate cancer testing.

“Research shows that African American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer than Caucasian men, and also a higher rate of death due to prostate cancer,” Wagner says.

“We know the facts,” Derrel explains. “That’s what we tell our friends. Regular testing can help you figure out quickly if something isn’t right.”

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer found in men, following skin cancer. The Prostate Cancer Program at BIDMC provides a multidisciplinary approach to prostate cancer care. Meet our team of experts and learn about our services.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are far more likely to skip routine health screens than women.