The Saiful-Islam Abdul Ahad Story

Poster Child For Prostate Cancer

Recently Professor Saif found himself up in the middle of the night, and it was not to grade papers.

Saiful-Islam Abdul Ahad has worked with college students in Central Florida since 1994 as both a professor of history and an academic advisor. “I like sports,” says the active man in his mid-50s. “But academia and teaching is my passion. I get paid to do what I love.”

However, in March 2006, Professor Saif was getting up numerous times in the middle of the night, not to grade papers, but to use the bathroom. He had started getting prostate exams when he turned 40 and his next annual exam was scheduled soon. He decided to mention the recent change to his urologist, Stan Sujka, MD, at his appointment. “I thought maybe my prostate was swollen,” he shares. 

Dr. Sujka performed a urinalysis, a digital rectal exam, and ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. His PSA test returned elevated, but not in the danger level. “Your PSA level has increased a full point since last year. This concerns me,” Dr. Sujka explained. He further   explained that African American men are at a greater risk for developing prostate cancer. He offered two options: watch the prostate for any changes for six months or undergo 15 minutes of discomfort with an ultrasound and biopsy of the prostate to know for sure. “I chose to have the biopsy. And he was right; it was 15 minutes of discomfort.”

A week later, Dr. Sujka called. He wanted to see the professor. “We took six core biopsies of your prostate,” Dr. Sujka explained. “1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 all came back clear. Number 2 was cancerous.” Dr. Sujka began to describe his options. The various surgeries did not appeal to Professor Saif, but as he heard about radiation beam therapy, he began to see his option. “I have scheduled an appointment for you with radiation oncologist Patrick Kupelian, MD, at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando. He is absolutely fantastic. Make your decision after you talk to him,” said Dr. Sujka. 

Professor Saif went to MD Anderson - Orlando to meet with Dr. Kupelian who explained that he focused almost entirely on treating prostate cancer. “You have a 90 to 95 percent chance of beating this since it was detected early,” he added. Professor Saif knew he was in the right place. “I was impressed as soon as I met Dr. Kupelian. He gave me everything I needed to know to make my decision.”

“I felt even better about my treatment when I learned I was going to be treated with the newest development in prostate treatment – IMRT on the Novalis treatment machine,” Professor Saif shares. IMRT, or intensity modulated radiation therapy, varies the shape and intensity of the radiation to best target the tumor and spare healthy tissue. 

Professor Saif underwent 39 treatments of radiation. “I came to MD Anderson - Orlando everyday for my 10-minute treatment and then I went on with my day,” he describes. Radiation therapists, Bernadette Kirkpatrick and Dennis O’Brien, treated Professor Saif each time. “They made it so easy. They were beyond marvelous,” he says. “They refuse to allow their patients to be down or discouraged.”

“MD Anderson – Orlando puts their warmth, care and concern with their professionalism,” he says. “MD Anderson – Orlando lives up to its reputation. It is the Rolls-Royce for cancer research and treatment,” he says. Professor Saif will have his PSA levels checked every six months. “I’ll come back here. This is a fantastic place.” 

“I am the poster child for early detection,” Professor Saif says. “Men, take yourselves seriously. Get a prostate exam.”