Without doubt, the one word which no one wants to hear and which touches all of us in the deepest part of our being, is the word: cancer. Suddenly, this dreaded affliction which has affected the lives of friends or family members evoking our sympathy and concern, is now within us. And we deal with a myriad of feelings as we attempt to come to grips with our body’s seeming treachery and the implications of radiation or surgery and possibly our death.
In my case it was the diagnosis of prostate cancer. According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. I checked the statistics. In 2011 (the most recent year numbers are available) 209,292 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Also, according to the CDC, the number of people living beyond any form of cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024. That’s good news.
I was blessed with a diligent and excellent urologist concerned at my steadily increasing PSA and who detected an abnormality in my prostate through digital rectal examination. This was confirmed through a biopsy – which requires the taking of 12 samples from the prostate. These are collected through the rectum wall – an unpleasant but bearable procedure. One sample was cancerous, but ‘slow growing’. Hearing the results of my biopsy confirmed what I knew was probably true – still, it was hard to hear.
There are various treatments for Prostate cancer, but the one I chose was CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System at Anova Cancer Care at Lone Tree, Colorado. This system delivers beams of high-dose radiation to tumors with extreme accuracy. Prior to the treatment, I had a short outpatient procedure in which five tiny gold seeds – called fiducial markers – were inserted into the prostate. The fiducials are placed through a needle, which is guided via an ultrasound. Approximately one week following insertion my medical team determined the size of the area being targeted by radiation and the radiation dose, as well as identifying critical structures – such as the bladder and rectum – where radiation should be minimized.
Following a CT scan and MRI, I had five treatments, every other day, each taking about 45 minutes while lying on a comfortable couch dressed in street clothes listening to classical music (one can bring music of one’s choice). The CyberKnife System’s computer-controlled robot moved around my body to various locations from which it delivered radiation. Special software determined precisely where the radiation should be delivered. All in all, a pleasant experience.
There have been no side-effects and after one year, regular checkups indicate that my PSA has fallen from a high of 9.0 to .38 – far lower than men of my age (75).
According to the literature, five years after treatment a recurrence-free rate of 93% has been reported.
My recommendations for all men? Find an excellent Urologist. Have an annual examination and a PSA blood test. If cancer is diagnosed, consider Cyberknife. This cutting-edge treatment worked very well for me as it will for others.
Richard J. Hendry