Monday, November 21, 2011

Radiation Treatments Beginning

(Nov 21. 2011)
While I've written some of this already here is a run down on my prostate cancer situation. At the end of last year (2010) I had a routine blood test for my annual physical. My doctor spotted that I had an elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) count. This can be an indication of prostate cancer. This lead to my getting a prostate biopsy in early April (the delay was caused by health insurance issues). The biopsy showed that I did indeed have prostate cancer (much to my surprise though not shock). I received some counseling by the attending urologists on treatment options. During the next two months I received a second opinion and studied prostate cancer and its various treatments. The book "Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer" by Dr. Patrick Walsh proved to be very helpful in the evaluation process. I also spoke with many men who have had prostate cancer and the treatment methods they chose. This also proved very helpful.

By the end of June I decided to go with IMRT (Intense Modulated Radiation Therapy). IMRT is a long range treatment that is effective in a very high percent of the cases. In order to get into this type of treatment I had a CT scan and a bone scan (during July). These scans were done to determine if the cancer had spread beyond the prostate itself (into the lymphatic system and bones). The results on both scans were negative. At the end of August I was given a Lupron shot. This shot is done to suppress the making of male hormones which the prostate cancer cells feed on. There is a two month gap between the Lupron shot and when the radiation can actually happen. During this time I had some gold inserts placed beside the prostate (an outpatient procedure) and another CT scan (I received three small tattoos on my lower abdomen). The gold inserts and the CT scan are for correct radiation beam targeting and planning. After the CT scan (Nov 1) the radiation technicians spent several weeks planning my treatments.

Also in October I began a hospital sponsored small group course called "The Seven Levels of Healing." This group meets once a week through November and takes different aspects of the cancer experience and is facilitated by a registered nurse and a hospital social worker. Some of the sessions have proved very helpful and I appreciate getting to know other cancer patients and family members.

At this point I am feeling fine. I continue doing my part time job and my daily activities pretty much normally. I do have some "hot flashes" from the Lupron injection.

So today (November 21) I'm starting my radiation treatments which will continue for two months (five days a week for two months.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brief Update (5/13/11)

I wanted to give everyone a brief update on my prostate cancer (P.C.) situation. The past several weeks I've been interviewing men who have gone through various type of treatments for P.C. These talks have been by extended phone conversations or in person discussions. I've learned a lot and am also reading on the subject. I will have my second opinion on June 2. At this point I am leaning toward a non-surgerical treatment (probably a form of radiation) but all options are still on the table. I am in no pain as P.C. usually doesn't give off symptoms until it spreads (if it does) to other body structures.  I am going about my normal routine and work. I appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers during this time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cancer Talk 1

Thoughts on Prostate Cancer

The men I've talked with have went through various types of prostate cancer (P.C.) treatment.  Almost all of the men I've spoken with have been satisfied with their treatments. Most have received one form of radiation treatment or another. There are several varieties of high intensity radiation beam therapy. This type of treatment usually involves getting short exposures directly to the prostate which kills the cancer cells 5 days a week over a period of two months or more. Another type of radiation beam treatments uses proton rays to destroy the cancer cells. Then there is "seed" implantation treatments which inserts tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate that kills the cancer cells. Another is called freezing (cryoablation) which actually freezes the prostate killing the cancer cells. Both the seeding and freezing are short operations (two hours) with a fairly rapid recovery time. There is also surgery that removes the prostate from the body which has a longer recovery time.

There are various "side effects" or possible post-treatment problems with each of these treatments. I am reading a lengthy book on the topic now called "Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer" by Dr. Patrick Walsh. This book was recommended by my urologist and is written in a laymen friend style. I am definitely getting an education on the function and malfunction of some of my internal organs. I am finding this book (as well as the interviews) very help in helping me understand the uninvited visitor in my body. P.C. is very common 1 out of 7 men will have P.C. after age sixty and one in six with have P.C. after age 70.

My initial reaction on hearing the news it that of great surprise though not shock as I don't recall other men in my family lines with P.C. It is possible some did have it but actually died of other causes. Also I have three older brothers who are at this time P.C. free. My thinking on P.C. is that like many cancers it is an immune system disorder. Cancer cells are probably being produced in most peoples bodies but our various immune systems control them (kill) before they can cause problems. However the cancers can "outsmart" or overwhelm the immune system which causes cancer tumors to spring up. I think there is also a genetic component in the sense that genetic defects (on a neutral DNA level) are passed down from generation to generation. The genetic defects that we sustain in our lifetime are pass now to our children. This has been termed "genetic load" and can be a cause for cancer on a gene or even molecular level.  There are certainly other reasons for cancer also.

My thinking now is that my P. C. has been caught early and the chances of successful treatment (doctors even use the word "cure" rather than remission) are very good. God willing, I could see another fairly healthy 10 or 20 years.
I expect my treatment will start within the next several months.