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From Spring 2014 Quest

by Betsy Haberl


Jim Boeheim and Dr. Stacy Loeb

Dr. Catalona and Jim Boeheim, taken in 2007
Jim Boeheim underwent surgery for prostate cancer at age 56. More than 10 years later, the head coach of the Syracuse University men's basketball team led his team to win their first 25 games in the regular season. He has also been working to raise awareness for prostate cancer.

In September, Boeheim was a guest on the Men’s Health Radio Show as part of a prostate cancer awareness special. Dr. Stacy Loeb hosted the show, which airs on Sirius XM. Boeheim spoke with Dr. Loeb about his experience with prostate cancer and the importance of early detection.

In 2001, Boeheim had been suffering from symptoms of an enlarged prostate for a few years. The problem was getting worse and he was unable to sleep through the night. He sought help from Dr. Catalona, who suggested obtaining a biopsy before having a prostate reduction. A reduction would make it more difficult to treat prostate cancer in the future.

The biopsy revealed cancer. Boeheim and his wife decided to move ahead with an open nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy performed by Dr. Catalona. “There’s a lot of conjecture talk, other research, other people’s opinions, but for my case—and from what my knowledge was—at age 56, let’s get this out and not take any chances. I feel it was the right solution for me,” he told Dr. Loeb.

The surgery also provided immediate relief for his symptoms. “I felt the best I’ve ever felt within a few days after the surgery because I’d really let this linger over a 2 to 3 year period,” he said. After only 10 days, Boeheim returned to coaching and “never really had any pain or issues coming back early.”

Boeheim’s Views

Robotic prostatectomies were not available at the time, but Boeheim told Dr. Loeb, “I’m still kind of convinced that [open surgery] is the better way, from what research I’ve done.” He pointed out that there isn’t enough available information on robotic prostatectomies. “I have absolute faith in Dr. Catalona. I think when you’re in great hands then obviously the outcome is going to be better. There’s really no leakage or these horrible side effects if you’re getting competent surgery—and there’s competent surgery out there,” he said.

If he had chosen active surveillance, he felt he “would’ve been thinking about it every 10 minutes.” Boeheim’s father died of prostate cancer, and Boeheim knew it was important to get diagnosed early. Also, active surveillance would not have addressed his symptoms of the enlarged prostate.

The Carrier Dome at Syracuse University

Speaking Out for Men’s Health

Today, Boeheim is an advocate for prostate cancer awareness. “It’s just so important for men to get tested. I think the awareness issue is still, for me, the most crucial.” He questioned the rationale behind the recent guidelines that recommend against PSA testing. “It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think you have to get checked. You have to give yourself a chance. Then, you can make decisions based on what you and your doctors think,” he said.

Boeheim also shared his views on staying in shape with Dr. Loeb. “I get a complete physical every year now. I think it’s important. You can target certain things—look at your diet, your blood pressure, your cholesterol — and try to get as much under control as possible.” He exercises regularly by doing Pilates and riding a stationary bike. “It’s helped me and made me feel better,” he said. He also stressed the importance of a healthy diet. Boeheim and his fellow coaches are trying to eliminate soft drinks from their players’ diets and encourage them to eat more fruits and vegetables. “That’s a difficult sale with teenagers,” he said. “I’m trying to be more watchful of my diet.”

Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim has had a remarkable run as head coach at Syracuse University. He has had only winning teams in his tenure and recently reached 900 career victories. He also served as assistant coach for the US Olympic teams that won gold medals in 2008 and 2012. He is a champion of many charitable causes and started the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation.

Dr. Stacy Loeb is a urologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center who studied urology at Northwestern University with Dr. Catalona. She is also a Syracuse native and a huge fan of SU basketball.


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