For Connel Campbell, 67, of West Haven, the symptoms that finally drove him into the doctor’s office came on gradually.

“I had to go to the bathroom a lot,” he said. “I didn’t really notice it for a while. And then when I did, I keep putting it off. I was too busy with other things – plus, being a typical male, I didn’t ever make time to go to the doctor.”

Finally, however, Campbell couldn’t ignore his symptoms any longer. “It felt like I just couldn’t hold the urge at all, and I was in pain when I would try to hold it,” he said. He made an appointment with his primary care physician, Wayne Warren, MD, of Northeast Medical Group. Dr. Warren examined Campbell and then referred him to YNHH urologist Thomas Buckley, MD.

Although about 1 in 7 men, like Campbell, will eventually be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, the warning signs of the disease are often vague and may be confused with other conditions. Symptoms of prostate cancer may include: trouble starting to urinate; weak or interrupted flow of urine; urinating more often, particularly during the night; trouble emptying the bladder; pain or burning during urination; bloody urine or semen; painful ejaculation; or chronic pain in the back, hips or pelvis.

Some men are at greater risk for prostate cancer. Those who are older are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40 years old, but once they reach 50, the risk increases. Nearly 6 out of 10 men with prostate cancer are older than 65 years old. In addition, African-American men are more likely than men of other races and ethnicities to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and to die from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, they are also more likely to be in an advanced stage of the disease when diagnosed and have the condition at a younger age.

After consulting with Dr. Buckley, Campbell was referred to Smilow Cancer Hospital urologic oncologist John Colberg, MD. Dr. Colberg removed Campbell’s prostate using the da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic surgery system that offers several advantages over the traditional laparoscopic surgical method of treating prostate cancer. It is a minimally invasive procedure, which typically means there is a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery for patients.

“I was only in the hospital for two days, and then I went home,” said Campbell, who continued to recuperate with rest and Kegel exercises as directed by his physicians. “I feel lucky that I was able to have my surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital. I got excellent care. I was treated real well by everyone there.”

Once he felt ready to resume normal activities again, Campbell decided to volunteer as a guest ambassador at the YNHH Saint Raphael Campus. He spends two days a week greeting patients and visitors as they come through the hospital’s doors.

“Being diagnosed with cancer changed my life. I realized just how short life really is,” he said. “Volunteering is like therapy for me – the more I do it the better I feel. I try to radiate positivity and joy every day. If I can greet people and get them to their destinations in the hospital with a smile and a friendly word, then maybe they will feel better for a few moments.”