A man puts his hand over a pause button on his chest.

Pausing or Quitting Prostate Cancer Treatment

How do you know when it might be right to pause your cancer treatment? And an even bigger question to follow: How do you know when it’s time to quit treatment altogether?

Before I continue, let me just say for those whom this might concern, I’m not about to be packed off on a one-way trip to a hospice; well, not anytime soon, I hope.

Considering pausing treatment

Pausing cancer treatment has been on my mind. As of my writing this, there’s nothing to pause, as I’m currently not undergoing any therapy. Soon I’ll be having my next PSA test, which rolls around every six months. For around the last 18 months, my PSA has stood at a highly desirable 0.03 and long may it remain that way.

The reason mildly-anxious thoughts have been occupying my mind is that my last hormone injection was way back in August 2020, and little by little the side effects have started to depart. My interest in sex is back, the hot flashes have gone, and something like normal life is starting to return. And you know what? I like it!

Stats angst

I’m aware this is just another example of the "stats angst" we all go through just prior to a PSA test. Here’s Jim’s thought bubble: "What if my reading is not so good this time, and my PSA level has shot up?"

If that were the case, I assume my oncologist would start to talk about a return to some form of treatment. Any form of cancer treatment will have side effects, most of which are unwelcome, though of course not as unwelcome as cancer itself. Should that time arrive, then I imagine I’ll want to know how long I can remain treatment-free without letting my cancer run rampant around my body. But boy oh boy, I don’t want to go back on the hormone juice, let alone anything stronger.

Cancer messes with the mind

I have a suspicion that a common reaction to all the above will be something like: Jim, for goodness sake, you’re fine, live in the moment and don’t start panicking about something that may or may not happen sometime in the future.

To which I would add, yes you’re right, but don’t forget cancer can mess with your mind just as much as it messes with your body.

Another possibility: stopping treatment

Moving on to the second question of when you might stop all treatment and accept that your life is coming to a close. Well, that’s a massive decision.

Clearly to even consider this course of action, there are questions that must be addressed. Is your treatment no longer working? Are there no other treatments available? Are the side effects resulting from your current treatment unbearable? And if I do give up treatment, how much life will I have left, and what will the quality of that life look like?

You would most likely seek counsel from your closest loved ones and friends, but ultimately it will be your choice, and of course that includes your right to change your mind and go back on treatment.

Tough decisions

Once again you may be thinking: Jim, why are you even considering this when right now, you are nowhere near having to make these decisions?

A few years ago, I knew someone who had cancer, and at one point she finally declined any further treatment. When she died, she was 35 years old. A total tragedy made worse by the fact she was never able to give her partner a compelling answer as to why she took the decision to decline any further therapy.

I realize I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic, but it has got me thinking and perhaps it’s prompted some thoughts from you, dear reader. If it has, then I’d like to hear them. I have a feeling this is a topic I will be returning to.

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