Prostate Cancer: It’s A Walk In The Park
In some circles, there’s a sense that prostate cancer is easily treatable and frankly a bit of a walk in the park. Carl told me: The worst thing I hear when telling people I have prostate cancer is when they say: ‘Yes if you’re going to get cancer that's the one you would choose’. Despite the many effective treatments and survival rates improving even a cursory glance at the relevant statistics should indicate that prostate cancer, like any form of cancer, goes about its business in a brutal manner.
A time to unite people and spread awareness
You may have no interest in cancer, but unfortunately, cancer may have an interest in you. All of which brings us to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This year the theme is to elevate the voices of those who are living with it together with the voices of partners, families, and friends who are along on the no-joy ride. As ever the driver is to encourage men to get tested so doctors can catch the cancer before it spreads.
More people are talking about cancer now
Only a few years ago cancer was not a topic of polite conversation. It was right up there with masturbation and menstruation as subjects you just didn’t talk about. If you got cancer you kept it to yourself and those very close to you. There were many instances of folks not even telling their families they had the Big C.
Thankfully all that has changed, particularly when cancer mémoires started to emerge. In 1998 journalist John Diamond published ‘C. Because cowards get cancer too’. It was his frank, fearless, funny, and heartbreaking experiences with head and neck cancer that took the publishing world by storm and made people sit up and pay attention.
"You’re a writer; write about it."
Thereafter with the advent of social media early this century, and with websites such as this one, men’s voices are being heard as never before. In my small way, I’ve tried to do my bit. Three years ago, when I was first diagnosed, I remember thinking, well Jim you’ve got cancer what are you going to do about it? Swift reply to self: You’re a writer; write about it.
I’ve kept a blog pretty much from day one with the hope that my subtle consciousness-raising might encourage other men, and perhaps their partners to learn more about prostate cancer and not be afraid to talk about it, seek help, and get tested.
Knowledge puts you in the driving seat
As I’ve written elsewhere with PC, as with any serious illness, you need to think like a reporter. I'm a firm believer that knowledge is power and while knowledge won’t cure your cancer it at least puts you in the driving seat. There are a lot of confusing medical terms and acronyms associated with prostate cancer which you will need to understand.
Fortunately, the clever people on this website have put together a page titled 'What is Prostate cancer?' It’s a good place to start. It may be a journey you don’t want to take, but hitch a ride, it might save your life.
How can we promote prostate cancer testing?
One of the problems, and I’m hoping awareness month can help here, is that in the past many men were dissuaded from getting checked out as the PSA test, one of the principle analyses for PC, produces too many false positives.
A colleague on this website, Tony Collier feels we need to look at the PSA test in a slightly different way. In his opinion, it isn’t a particularly effective diagnostic tool but should be seen as part of the diagnostic process and must be coupled with mpMRI scans to achieve a far more accurate picture. Anything that stops men from getting tested, must be resisted.
Prostate cancer stats will shock you
To raise awareness and be a successful advocate, I’m never sure if it’s best to shock people with bad news or bring comfort with good news. I’ve decided to do both.
Here’s the shocker: This year, an estimated 191,930 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Around ninety US men die from prostate cancer every day; that’s more than 33,000 a year. One in nine American men will have prostate cancer during their lifetime. These stats should at least indicate that prostate cancer is nothing like a walk in the park.1
My recent good news
So, come on Jim, enough of this doom and gloom I hear you saying, what’s the good news? Well, the good news is my good news. I recently spoke to my oncologist who told me my PSA level remains at 0.03. This means I’ve been part of the NED squad (No Evidence of Disease) for a year. Having endured radiation therapy and three years of hormone therapy, I had my last Zoladex jab at the end of August. This concludes my treatment, but of course, whether it concludes my brush with cancer is a different matter.
My PSA is now checked every six months for the next two years and should it rise to something like 0.5 then I may be back on the cancer treatment chain gang. But don’t mistake this for anything other than good news, no matter what may happen in the future. When you tell people you have cancer, their unspoken thought is: ‘Oh he’s going to die’. That really doesn’t have to be the case if you catch it early.
My question to the community
With Prostate Cancer Awareness Month both front and center, I want you guys (and partners, family and friends) to come forward and tell your stories to help raise consciousness.
In fact, here’s my question to get you started that you can answer in the comments. What is it that other men should know about prostate cancer that you didn’t know before you were diagnosed? Let's get the word out this month.
Have you experienced side effects from androgen deprivation therapy (ADT)?