When cancer strikes "below the belt"

​When cancer strikes “below the belt,” the results can be devastating to a couple. In addition to standard fears that accompany a diagnosis of the “Big C,” reproductive cancers carry the potential for sexual dysfunction and loss of intimacy.

The Pinterpes of Huntington Beach faced those fears. Twice.

Sam Pinterpe, 69, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011; his wife of 31 years, Karen, received a diagnosis of endometrial cancer in 2012. When reproductive cancers hit both husband and wife, the Pinterpes say, couples need good communication, good humor and great doctors to make it through.

The Pinterpes’ story started in 2010, when Sam was told his PSA levels were “creeping up.” The news wasn’t horrible, so his doctor recommended a “wait and see” approach. But Sam isn’t one to twiddle his thumbs.

A self-described “half-glass full” kind of guy, Sam immediately began researching his options. He learned he was likely going to need a prostatectomy, and the nerve-sparing nature of robotic surgery appealed to him. He also learned from scouring medical information that better outcomes are related to a surgeon’s level of experience.

From Sam’s research, all signs pointed to Dr. Jeffrey Yoshida. The Program Director of Urologic Oncology at Hoag Family Cancer Institute, Dr. Yoshida has performed more than 1,700 nerve-sparing robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomies.

Almost exactly a year after Sam’s surgery, Karen, 64, was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Again, the couple faced the fears of cancer. And again, they put their faith in doctors in whom they felt they could really trust.

After much research on Karen’s end as well, she selected high-volume gynecologic oncologist and surgeon Lisa Abaid, M.D. Dr. Abaid performed a robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy in April 2012 that removed all evidence of cancer and left Karen none the worse-for-wear.

“I walked three miles the next day,” Karen says.

“It is important to have a lot of knowledge about the surgery, and nobody should do it alone,” Karen says. “You need another pair of ears to hear what the doctor is saying.”

And, Sam adds, “Get the best care you can.”