Sep 29, 2011 - 8:31 pm
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer two weeks ago and I quickly realized that prostate cancer is under rated and more of an issue than most people think. Until my diagnosis and subsequent research, I viewed prostate cancer as a minor bump in the life of a man. It is slow growing, often you don’t even treat it and when you do it’s very easy to assure the cancer has been removed. I realize now that I was living under a rock, but I believe most men feel this way. One of the biggest things any man with prostate cancer can do is raise awareness to the real impact of this disease.
Having said all of that, I am now facing the difficult treatment decisions. I was initially very upbeat about my future, but some hard realities have hit me lately. I have had two back surgeries from which I recovered very well. In both cases, I had the surgery, recovered and never thought of them again. I realize that with this disease, I will never be able to walk away from it. It is something I will need to live with and worry about the rest of my life. I am a generally upbeat person, so I am confident I will cope well.
So here’s my diagnosis and thoughts about treatment. I am 64 years old and in good health. I eat well and exercise regularly. My primary care physician noticed a nodule on my prostate during a DRE at a routine physical exam. My PSA level was only 1.4, but he sent me to an urologist who confirmed the nodule and cancer with a biopsy. He took 14 core samples, the usual 12 plus two directly from the nodule. Both cores from the nodule and both from the right apex were cancerous, as well as one core each from the right Mid and Base. All left side samples were clear. All samples were given a Gleason 3+4. Although he is confident the cancer is localized to the prostate, there is of course no guarantee and he told me I needed to take action. I am fortunate to live close enough to Baltimore, so I was able to schedule an appointment at The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins University for next week.
My biggest concern is knowing if all the cancer has been eliminated. I now know that no such guarantee is possible with any treatment, but it seems that with surgery I will at least know if it was contained or had spread to adjacent areas. I have talked with three men who had surgery at Johns Hopkins from 4 to 13 years ago and all are doing very well; only one continues to have intermittent slight leakage. However, at the time of their treatment, they were all younger than I am now. I am concerned about recovery from surgery and possible lingering side effects. However, my urologist said that if I chose radiation treatment, he recommends a 5 week course of external radiation followed by Brachytherapy. This course of treatment seems as bad as surgery and I will not know how well the treatment worked. I also worry about long term side effects form external radiation.