Surgeon uses music, nonprofit in fight against prostate cancer

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Surgeon uses music, nonprofit in fight against prostate cancer

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For the AJC
Dr. Scott Miller gives a short performance of some of the music he plays in his fight against prostate cancer. Miller, who performed Georgia’s first robotic prostate removal, is the founder of ProstAware, a nonprofit that uses music, sports and technology to raise prostate cancer awareness. CHRIS HUNT / SPECIAL

On a recent afternoon, Dr. Scott Miller enters his Midtown office carrying a guitar case and wearing a traditional white physician’s coat. Sitting down at his desk, Miller tunes his acoustic guitar. Hardened calluses on his fingertips twist metal pins into place and, fingers dancing down the fretboard, he begins to sing a song.

The lyrics and melody, he said, were inspired by his empathy for those recently diagnosed with a disease all too common these days for men.

His guitar is but one vehicle for his passion, which also happens to be his job. Miller started a nonprofit nine years ago; he wrote a book that’s coming out in 2018; and he’s always trying to think of new ways to spread awareness for a disease he’s devoted an entire life fighting: prostate cancer.

With September being National Prostate Health Month, Miller, a 53-year-old urologist and prostate cancer surgeon, has a message for men reading this article.

“The average guy thinks, ‘It’s not gonna be me who gets cancer or has a heart attack …,’” Miller said. “Men need to realize they are not infallible. We need to be aware of our mortality and minimize the chances of reaching it too early by going and getting checked.”

Miller added: “We die of one of two things for the most part — cardiovascular events or cancer, and those are preventable deaths.”

“The average guy thinks, ‘It’s not gonna be me who gets cancer or has a heart attack …,’” said Dr. Scott Miller, who works to raise awareness about prostate cancer. “Men need to realize they are not infallible. We need to be aware of our mortality and minimize the chances of reaching it too early by going and getting checked.” For the AJC

Miller, who has spent most of his life in Atlanta, got the bug for working in the medical field as a young boy. He tagged along to visits to the physician with his older sister, who had rheumatoid arthritis.

He chose a career in urology, he said, because of the variety.

“(Urologists) take care of the kidneys, the bladder, adrenal glands, prostate and male genitalia,” Miller said. “It’s equivalent to a gynecologist for males.”

He is a pioneer in his field, having performed Georgia’s first robotic prostate removal. He also invented LapaRobotic Surgery, which blends two separate but related surgical techniques: laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which operations are performed through small incisions.

When not performing surgery, Miller writes music and books.

An upcoming book he co-authored — “How’s It Hanging Down There?” — is meant to be a “tongue in cheek” health handbook for men that explores a topic Miller said men don’t discuss often enough with their doctors or one another.

That’s one of the main reasons nine years ago Miller founded ProstAware, a nonprofit that uses music, sports and technology to raise prostate cancer awareness.

ProstAware’s ninth annual Blue Ties luncheon is scheduled for Sept. 8 at the Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead. Former football running back and Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves, Commodores member William King and 11 Alive’s Jerry Carnes will speak at the gathering.

In 2016, more than 450 people attended the Blue Ties event, which raised $125,000, bolstering the organization’s mission to provide education and awareness of prostate cancer in the community.

ProstAware Executive Director Tim Smith, who is also a former patient of Miller’s, said he hopes “to get people talking about (prostate cancer), discussing it more. Guys don’t like to talk about their health, specifically prostate issues.”

Smith said that 1 in 7 men in the U.S. will get prostate cancer, “but we just don’t talk about it.”

Smith knows it firsthand, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago.

Miller performed robotic surgery on Smith, and now he’s “cured … cancer free.”

He’s lucky, he said, because the prostate cancer was discovered early. If discovered in an early stage — while still confined to the prostate — the five-year survivor rate is 99 percent for those with prostate cancer.

Smith is grateful to Miller for the successful surgery he performed, but he also admires the man as a champion in the fight against prostate cancer.

“He saves lives every day with surgery, and he is so passionate about what he does,” Smith said.

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In his crusade against prostate cancer, Miller isn’t satisfied just performing surgery, founding nonprofits and writing books. About seven years ago, he penned “Tell It Like It Is,” which he described as “kind of a fight song” for ProstAware and those diagnosed with and battling prostate cancer.

An avid guitarist, Miller sometimes performs with his rock ‘n’ roll band Vintage Red at local venues such as, most recently, Eddie’s Attic. They also perform at parties and for nonprofit functions.

Miller said he hopes to keep using every skill he has — playing guitar and writing as well as continued outreach through his nonprofit — to spread the word about prostate cancer before it’s too late.

“Prostate cancer is a common disease, and we (doctors) are having to have difficult conversations with patients about it way too often,” Miller said, adding that breaking the news to patients about their diagnoses is never easy.

“Men need to learn how to take care of themselves, and find out who needs to be screened, when, how and where to go from there.”

For more information about ProstAware, visit prostaware.org.

BLUE TIES LUNCHEON

11:30 a.m. Sept. 8. Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, 3434 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. $100 per ticket.prostaware.org.

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