Houston doctor survives 6 different cancers over 50-year span

A doctor from Houston has been dealing with cancer for more than 50 years, not just with his patients, but himself – six times.

His own journey changed his career path to help others going through cancer.

Dr. Arthur Hamberger worked at Memorial Hermann for decades. He has retired, but still volunteers there.

He has been fighting six different types of diseases: testicular, prostate, lymphocytic lymphoma, bladder, pancreatic, and a kidney tumor. Regardless, you'll almost always find a smile on his face. His goal is to keep himself and patients healthy.

"There are times when I literally forget about it because I feel normal right now," says Dr. Hamberger.

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His cancer journey began more than 50 years ago during his medical residency. His brother got diagnosed with prostate cancer, so he decided to just be safe and get himself checked. His instincts were right, he also had cancer.

"Obviously that was quite concerning. I had only been married a few years, had a little girl, and had just turned 26. At that time, all I could say is, 'I just hope I can make it for another 15 years just to see my daughter grow up'," exclaims Dr. Hamberger. He sure surpassed that goal!

After surgery and radiation therapy, he beat testicular cancer and small cell lymphocytic lymphoma, which is a type of leukemia. It was literally a life-changing experience for him, in a positive way. That cancer diagnosis changed his career path.

"At that time, I was all set on becoming a pulmonologist and in fact, I was offered the Chief Residency of Pulmonology at the Albert Einstein Medical Center, at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, but I became interested in radiation therapy and decided that I was going to make a change in specialty, and the rest is history. I did a fellowship at MD Anderson for three years and stayed on their staff for 10 years, then in 1982, I opened up a new department at Memorial City Hospital. It was the first radiation therapy department with this type of equipment outside the 610 Loop," explains Dr. Hamberger.

Then in 2018, another scare.

"There's just the slightest pink tinge in my urine," he explains. He knew to seek immediate help and his instincts were right again.

"The results showed a four centimeter tumor on the right side of my bladder, and that was the side of my pelvis that had the radiation therapy back in 1971," says Dr. Hamberger.

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Oncologists also found a mass on his pancreas and had to remove part of his pancreas and spleen. A year later, oncologists detected a mass on one of his kidneys that they're closely monitoring.

He believes his medical background has helped him get through one diagnosis after another.

"As a physician, I knew what to expect. I had to have an advantage over the average patient. I was able to preempt and stay ahead of the side effects instead of catching up with them," states Dr. Hamberger. 

His medical expertise, as well as his personal experiences, are truly making a difference for patients at Memorial Hermann.

"I'll use the word ‘refreshing’! Just to listen to someone my age, seasoned, who had been on both sides of the fence. One as a medical doctor healing and on the other side of the patient getting healed, telling me about something that I was totally unfamiliar with, and it made me feel better," explains William Williams, a patient Dr. Hamberger has counseled.

Dr. Hamberger has been able to treat patients in Houston for five decades and his positive attitude is contagious. You can't help but wonder, how does he do it?

"By staying fit and by trying to watch my diet, that may help. Part of it may be genetically, even though I make cancers, they are able to stay quiet," says Dr. Hamberger.

He also caught all of his cancers in early stage, plus he has a strong support system.

"My wife took exceptionally good care of me early on, and I did have a lot of support from friends who would bring different soups and foods and things like that, but my wife and the gym get the credit," states a smiling Dr. Hamberger.

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He hopes everyone will learn from his situation. If you have a family history of cancer, do something about it, get yourself checked, he encourages!

"If my brother hadn't had that prostate cancer, I never would have checked my PSA. If I hadn't checked my PSA, I never would have found out about the lymphoma. I never would have found out about the bladder cancer, I never would have found out about the pancreatic cancer. So because my brother, who didn't die from prostate cancer but died from another type of cancer, because of him in essence, his problem led to my early diagnosis," says Dr. Hamberger.

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