Charles Staben

Charles Staben

Prostate Cancer

Vermilion, SD


Charles Staben is a survivor of prostate cancer. Charles’ father died in 1968 from prostate cancer, so with the knowledge of a family history, Charles developed his own protocol for detecting prostate cancer. Rather than test for the level of prostate-specific antigen, he looked at the change in level over time, in what is now known as a prostate velocity test. His experience with the test and prostate cancer have helped others recognize the potential for such tests and are now used regularly in cancer screening.

At the age of 44, Charles tested positive and requested a biopsy. He had his prostate removed on his 45th birthday, and has been cancer-free ever since.

Know Your Genetics

My father died from the exact same cancer. My maternal uncle died from brain cancer, but he had prostate cancer. He had a form of brain cancer that was particularly rare and I realized subsequently that he had glial brain cancer due to the same factor that also gives you a susceptibility to prostate cancer. When you think about it, it’s probably also a possibility that I received the genetic factor from both my mother and my father’s side, which may have led to a very early onset of prostate cancer in my case. Having a genomic test would be needed to verify that, so it’s currently just a hypothesis and isn’t relevant enough to be analyzed. It is relevant for my sons and nephews, even though they are not old enough to be tested yet.

Remain optimistic

Be a little bit more optimistic than you think you need to be. Cancer is a terrible diagnosis. To hear that you have cancer is really quite disturbing. My wife personally told me that I had cancer. She’s a physiologist and had my tests rushed. At the time of my diagnosis, approximately two out of three men diagnosed under age 45 died within five years, so to hear from your wife that you have cancer and knowing that your statistical odds being a two out of three death rate over five years is quite disturbing, so I feel very fortunate to be here.

The side effects of prostate surgery are not very desirable, so it’s very difficult to convince yourself that you are going to live. For the first few years after prostate surgery, I thought I was going to die. Now I think that I’m probably going to live, and that’s a lot better feeling.

Family Support

My wife, being a physician, is used to telling people they have cancer. It’s very funny when your wife is a physician because she switches from wife to physician mode and becomes almost unemotional, so I don’t think the cancer diagnosis was particularly hard for her. It was more like “Okay you have cancer, here is the next thing we need to do.” When I was in the hospital, I obviously was not feeling well, so I got a more emotional reaction, which was quite interesting. She was pretty much my main support through this. My children were pretty young still and were supportive, but really didn’t understand the situation completely. The rest of my family was supportive. My sister actually told my mother that I was diagnosed with the same cancer which had killed my father, which was very difficult for her to understand and accept so it was scary for her. So it was great for my sister to be a support and facilitate that communication.