Everyone knows where they were in 2001 when the planes flew into the twin towers.
I was in Sydney, Australia, sitting across the desk from an urologist who was telling me I had advanced prostate cancer. We were both bleary eyed as like the rest of the world, we had been glued to the TV screen for hours in disbelief.
My urologist was telling me because the cancer was not contained to the prostate, and because my PSA was 67 (above 4 is abnormal) and with a Gleeson score of 4 + 4 (8), my chances of surviving more than 5 years even with the best treatment was slim. He calculated about 18%. The chance of me surviving to 10 years was something like 5%.
So in 2001 I did a general health test, and as I was 50 years old I thought I should also get a prostate cancer test, which is a simple blood test, called a PSA test.
After that diagnosis I was really unsure of what treatment to do. This was because I saw 4 different urologists for treatment suggestions and they all gave me different options. One even wanted to do an orchiectomy, the other word for that is castration! He explained to me that prostate cancer is testosterone fed and castration eliminated the majority of the production of testosterone. When I asked him why I would do that instead of taking drugs that did the same thing, AND it was reversible, he said that it was cheaper on the government to do an orchiectomy rather than subsidize the drugs!
I made a mental note….NEVER let this guy give me anesthetic!
So when I had chemotherapy pretty much all my hair fell out, including my beard which I’d had for 30+ years. Now I’ve finished chemotherapy (Taxotere) and started another drug, Enzalutamide, my hair is growing like crazy! I’m thinking I look like Einstein, but of course one of my kids says “Einstein, yeah right Dad, more like one of the 3 Stooges!” (Do people still remember them?)
There is an ongoing debate amongst some academics, politicians and doctors as to whether routine screening for prostate cancer using the simple PSA blood test is necessary. Their argument is based on numerous clinical studies (some inconclusive or contradictory) that supposedly show that there is no significant statistical survival benefit for men getting regular prostate cancer screening with a PSA compared to those men who did not have a PSA screening.
I remember when I first requested a PSA test in a health checkup from my general practitioner (that ultimately diagnosed my cancer), that he tried to talk me out of it. “If you have prostate cancer do you really want to know?” he ask me. “Why wouldn’t I want to know?” I asked?
So after 19 treatments of the chemotherapy drug Taxotere over almost 2 years, it was ceasing to be effective, not to mention the terrible side effects.
So about 12 months ago I commenced Enzalutamide (marketed as Xtandi and formerly known as MDV3100) which has been developed by the pharmaceutical company Medivation for the treatment of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. It has been available now since about 2013.