• My Prostate Cancer Experience: Diagnosis and Survivorship

    David PilletsIn August 2009, I had an annual physical exam and my prostate specific antigen (PSA) test came back at 3.7. As I recall, I had been receiving PSA tests since the early 1990s, and my reading was always in the 2 to 2.5 range, which was considered normal. Since the 3.7 was unusual, my physician and I decided to do another PSA reading in 30 days. That came in at 4.85, which was not alarming, but higher than the norm of 4.0.

    The next step in the process was to see a urologist. I was not concerned since I was in excellent health, played golf three times a week, did gardening work, and so on.

    Because of the elevated PSA and the fact that the prostate was enlarged, we decided that a series of ultrasound-guided core biopsies should be performed. This biopsy test resulted in multiple positive cores that indicated that prostate cancer was present.

    My wife and I met with the urologist and we discussed the range of possible procedures. This included surgery to remove the prostate, hormonal treatment with a seed implant, or watchful waiting. In the meantime, we decided to meet with radiation oncologist John Duttenhaver, M.D., for another opinion. He recommended an endorectal MRI. That procedure indicated some areas of outpouching of the prostate capsule, and he concluded that I had an immediate risk of carcinoma of the prostate.

    Having a clear picture of the situation, we made a decision to have a six-month course of hormonal suppressive therapy, followed by five weeks of intensity modulated radiation therapy that would include radiation of the prostate, pelvic lymph nodes, and the seminal vesicles. That would be followed by a seed implant procedure of iodine or palladium seeds. I would also begin a structured fitness program to overcome the general loss of muscle mass, and meet with a dietitian/nutritionist to learn about a healthy low-fat diet.

    Most significant in the battle with prostate cancer or any type of cancer is the issue of surviving, not only the physical trauma, but also the emotional pain that occurs. I believe that is the major issue that all patients face. Actually, I feel it was my good fortune to have been treated at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute (ACI) at Memorial University Medical Center where they not only have state-of-the-art equipment and an outstanding medical team, but they also have a totally integrated prostate cancer program that includes diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.

    The ACI strives to give prostate cancer patients and survivors a maximum level of emotional and practical support, and at the same time, give them the opportunity to share their experiences and feelings with others. This support is offered to patients, survivors, their families, and caregivers.

    It is my strong opinion that a person diagnosed with any type of cancer must become his or her own advocate, do research, seek all the support he/she can find and move forward with the help of family, friends, physicians, therapists and technicians. A person with cancer must also have the opportunity to participate in a well organized outreach and support program, such as the program at the ACI.