Alabaster council president battling cancer, urges others to get checked

Published 11:06 am Thursday, September 20, 2018

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – As someone with a family history of cancer, Alabaster City Council President Scott Brakefield knew it was highly likely he would one day be battling the disease. He just didn’t know the diagnosis would be coming so early in his life.

“When you know there’s a history of it in your family, you know you’re eventually going to have to battle it,” Brakefield said during a Sept. 19 interview. “But I was expecting to battle it at 53, not 43.”

Knowing he was at a higher-than-normal risk of developing prostate cancer, Brakefield started receiving prostate-specific antigen screenings in his mid-30s with his primary care physician, Dr. Robert Snyder, who is affiliated with Alabaster’s Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

PSA screenings are blood tests used to detect early warning signs a person has developed prostate cancer.

In January, Brakefield went to Snyder for a routine physical exam, and learned the next month he had developed an elevated PSA level. After another PSA test, Brakefield visited his urologist, Dr. Jason Burrus with the SBMC-affiliated Urology Centers of Alabama, in May to undergo a biopsy.

In late May, the analysis of the biopsy revealed Brakefield had developed prostate cancer.

Fortunately, because physicians diagnosed Brakefield’s cancer early, his outlook and prognosis are positive.

“If you catch it early, (prostate cancer) is one of the most treatable types of cancer,” he said. “Luckily, we caught it early.”

Now, Brakefield is working with Burrus and Snyder to develop an individual treatment and monitoring plan for his diagnosis, which currently involves closely monitoring Brakefield’s PSA levels on a regular basis.

If the cancer grows or becomes more aggressive in the future, Brakefield will undergo surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.

Because September is prostate cancer awareness month, Brakefield and Shelby Baptist are using the situation to encourage men to get checked out.

Burrus encouraged men to start having regular PSA screenings when they reach the 50-55 age range, or earlier if they have a family history of prostate cancer.

“The early detection of prostate cancer is vital,” Burrus said. “Many cases can be treated with any combination of treatments ranging from active surveillance to hormone manipulation to some local therapies versus more radical therapies including radiation and surgery.

“Results of the therapies are much better in cases that were detected early,” Burrus added. “Late detection can often result in painful metastatic disease and death. Early detection also allows better preservation of normal function including continence and erectile function with treatment.”

Burrus said PSA screenings are the most effective way to detect prostate cancer early, as many men don’t experience any other warning signs they have developed the disease.

“Sometimes, men may experience some decrease in urinary stream or other urinary changes, but this is pretty uncommon,” Burrus said. “That is why screening is important for the detection of prostate cancer.”

Since publicly announcing his cancer diagnosis in early September, Brakefield said he has seen an outpouring of support from the community, which he has used as a platform to encourage local men to get screened if they meet the age or family history criteria for prostate cancer.

“I hope more men will take their yearly physical seriously. Go see a doctor and get your PSA checked,” Brakefield said, noting he had no physical symptoms indicating he had developed prostate cancer. “God has a plan for our lives, and we just have to turn the pages of that story and live it out.”