The Simple Act That May Have Saved a Michigan Man's Life

Author: Leslie Toldo

Prostate cancer screenings are never the highlight of Dave Gehring’s year, but he makes sure he never misses them.

“I highly recommend men have physicals every year, with blood tests and a prostate check. It doesn’t take long, and it may extend your life,” Dave said.

When his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) started to climb, Dave had to have testing more often.  

“My urologist was keeping an eye on my PSA. It was going up and down and then it stayed up for over a year and a half,” Dave said.  “Finally, they did an MRI and a biopsy and discovered that it was cancer in December 2022.”

A cancer diagnosis is alarming for anyone, but Dave took the news in stride.

“I was certainly concerned, but I have more than one friend who had prostate cancer and survived. So, I looked at it as something to take care of,” Dave said.

The first step was meeting with radiation oncologist Dr. Hesham Gayar at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint in January 2023.

“Dr. Gayar was very caring and thorough.  He is definitely passionate about his patients,” Dave said.

Rather than surgery, Dr. Gayar recommended treating Dave’s cancer with proton therapy, an alternative to traditional radiation that comes with less risk and fewer side effects.  Protons deliver higher doses of radiation in a more targeted way than the X-rays used in traditional radiation treatments. Protons stop at the tumor, unlike X-rays, which exit the body, exposing healthy tissue and organs to unnecessary radiation.

“Dave had high risk cancer that required treating lymph nodes close to the bowels,” said Dr. Gayar, the Medical Director of the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network. “Using proton therapy, we could avoid his bowels and avoid unwanted radiation to healthy tissue. “

“The thing that struck me most is that it was the most powerful, the most accurate, and it didn’t damage areas away from the cancer,” Dave said. “I took my wife in with me, and after Dr. Gayar took a half an hour or more to explain everything, we didn’t have many questions.”

The team that cared for Dave five days a week for eight weeks offered the kind of support he said he needed.

“I feel like I gained some friends because the team was so great.  They were so friendly and personable.”

The proton treatments were successful, leaving Dave with almost no side effects.

“His tumor was covered with precision.  This is the beauty of proton therapy,” Dr. Gayar said.

“I looked at a couple of friends and their side effects, like incontinence, and I didn’t have that,” Dave said.

Dave has also met other men with prostate cancer on his journey, who have been an irreplaceable source of support.

“You’re not alone,” Dave shared.  “You can get your feelings out with other people who are going through the same thing, and you are there for each other.”

Now, especially with September being Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Dave wants to spread the word to other men about doing the one thing that he truly believes saved his life- getting regular prostate exams.

The American Cancer Society recommends men start talking to their doctors about prostate cancer screening:

  • At age 50, if they’re at average risk.
  • At 45 if they are at high risk. This includes African Americans and men who have a father or brother diagnosed at 65 or younger. 
  • At 40 if they are very high risk, with more than one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age.

Men who decide to get screened should have a PSA blood test, possibly combined with a digital rectal exam.  Men with a PSA of less than 2.3 ng/mL may only need to screen every two years.

The ACS estimates there will be more than 288,000 new prostate cancer cases this year. With nearly 35,000 deaths expected in 2023, Dave is happy to be a survivor.

“It puts a smile on my face. I have a lot of things to do. I have five family members to take care of. I would hate to think that I wouldn’t be around for them,” Dave said.

If you have prostate cancer and want to find out if you are a candidate for proton therapy, visit to learn more or set up a consultation.