In 1994, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, middle-distance track star Steve Scott felt an obligation to warn other men about the disease. He talked openly with reporters and urged men to see their doctors.
With surgery and chemotherapy, Scott beat the disease.
Scott is now 58, a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, a resident of Carlsbad and track coach at nearby California State University San Marcos.
He has again been diagnosed with cancer – this time, of the prostate – and has decided to turn his condition into a moment for public education.
At the conclusion of Saturday’s Cougar Challenge cross-country meet at San Marcos, Scott is set to make a public announcement about his condition and urge men, particularly those of mature years, to be tested for signs of a disease that can be thwarted if detected early.
“I had no symptoms, no idea that anything was wrong,” Scott said.
But a routine blood test showed troublesome signs and further examination confirmed that he was in the early stages of prostate cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S. behind lung cancer.
Men need to overcome a reluctance to go to the doctor, Scott said. “We’re all like that,” he said.
For treatment, Scott turned to Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego, part of the Scripps Health system. The center is one of a dozen in the country that specializes in the proton treatment.
The center uses a “rifle-shot” approach to radiation to eradicate tumors, officials said. A more common approach to prostate cancer involves surgery but that poses a risk of incontinence and loss of sexual function.
Scott is now in the sixth week of an eight-week regimen and has felt no loss in energy. “Luckily we found it early,” he said. “It hadn’t spread, or at least they don’t think it has.”
Scott’s doctor is Carl Rossi, who has treated thousands of patients with the proton approach. He rates Scott’s prognosis for a full recovery as excellent.
Although the pair only recently became doctor-and-patient, Rossi said that Scott was “one of my heroes when I was a distance runner in high school and college.” Rossi was once among a group of admirers who surrounded Scott at a meet and asked for autographs.
Scott, who has held a passel of records and on 136 occasions ran the mile at under four minutes, was long known for wearing a baseball-style cap in the manner of fellow Olympian Dave Wottle.
But when he takes to the microphone after the Cougar Challenge, Scott will be wearing a more broad-rimmed hat.
"I'm not taking any chances with skin cancer," he said.