Finally, the side effects are starting to fade away. It had been 18 months since my last hormone therapy shot and the hot flashes have almost completely disappeared. Body hair is now returning and so, too, is my libido.
All welcome events, but what would that mean for my PSA level? The consultation with the cancer center was due in a few days, and already the stats angst was starting to build.
Evidence the treatment was working
When the side effects were in full swing, I used to comfort myself that even though they were unpleasant they were evidence the treatment was working, and hot flashes seemed a relatively small price to pay when it comes to dodging cancer.
Testosterone is like catnip to cancer, and the main purpose of undergoing HT is to reduce its presence in the body to virtually nothing. This makes for unpleasant side effects but means the cancer has nothing to feed on. This time I was having both my testosterone and PSA level checked.
Waiting for the call
On the last three occasions, my consultation had been over the phone. And while I know some people are unhappy with this, I take it as a compliment, as it means I’m no longer an emergency case. I currently don’t even talk with an oncologist; this time it was a lady from the radiology department at the cancer center.
A week earlier I’d had my blood drawn, and at the allotted time of 4 p.m. I was waiting for the call. By 4:30 no call had materialized, so I decided to take the dog for a walk to calm my nerves. Of course, just as I was passing some noisy traffic my cell phone started to ring. I dragged the mutt into a quiet side street to hear my fate.
An increasing PSA
As anticipated my PSA has increased. Last time it was checked it stood at 0.02; now I was told it stands at 0.23. I guess to cheer me up the lady on the call described this figure as "magnificent."
How long it stays magnificent is impossible to say, as it will likely rise again, but how far and how fast is impossible to predict. Should it hit 2.0, then I would probably have to re-start some of the treatments, which would be a blow. By way of comparison, when I was first diagnosed my PSA was 5.03, so my figures have never been off the scale.
As to my testosterone level, as of my writing this, it now registers 18.6. I have no idea what mine stood at prior to contracting cancer and having testosterone reducing fluids pumped into my body.
Trying to put cancer out of my mind
I’ve now got six months, as of my writing this, until my next test, during which time I’ll do my best to put cancer out of my mind.
This website along with its attendant Facebook page is full of advice and encouragement to men over fifty to get a digital rectal exam and, if necessary, a PSA test.
Worrying figures released in the UK suggest there could be more than 14,000 men who are unaware they have contracted prostate cancer during the last two years. Since the start of the pandemic, 58,000 men have started treatment for prostate cancer, which is 14K less than would usually be expected. It’s easy to understand why getting to see a doctor recently has been difficult, plus men sometimes find it hard to talk about prostate problems.1,2
I know most people reading this will be in the US, but it would hardly be a surprise if the same didn’t hold true across the pond, though because of a far greater population the figures could be much higher.
Perhaps you have blood in your urine, or perhaps you have no symptoms at all but are approaching fifty. Don’t think it can’t happen to you – it can. In the UK, prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the most commonly diagnosed version of the disease.3
Apologies for ending on a gloomy note, but the pandemic has caused so much distress; let’s not have it get in the way of treating prostate cancer. Catch it early and your chances of survival are infinitely higher. Get checked: a moment’s mild indignity can save your life.
How familiar are you with inherited gene mutations and cancer?