Late last summer, we began one of the biggest adventures of our lives: Dainius was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Last month, he completed his treatment, aside from a few drugs that he will keep taking until the end of the year. We are confident that the treatment was successful.
We are celebrating by becoming involved with the Motorcycle Ride For Dad, Canada’s biggest annual motorcycle event dedicated to fighting prostate cancer through research and awareness.
Awareness, that’s the key. I know you’ve all heard about prostate cancer. But have you taken any action? It is estimated that there are over 800,000 undiagnosed cases of prostate cancer in Canada.
Dainius was one of them. Even though he was going annually to his physician and getting all the tests, it still took him four years to get diagnosed. That’s too long.
Diagnosis only starts by having a DRE (digital rectal exam – I feel your pain) and a simple blood test that measures PSA (prostate specific antigen). Like a PAP smear for women, these tests don’t tell you if you have cancer, they are a marker that tells you whether or not further testing, a biopsy, is required.
Ask for an annual PSA test, and a DRE, find out your numbers, and then talk about it, especially to your doctor.
Unfortunately “we don’t need to talk about it” is an attitude that is held by a good percentage of the medical profession. (If you are an MD who regularly screens his 40- to 50-and-up male patients for prostate problems and refer for biopsies quickly, I am not referring to you. You are saving lives and quality of life for your patients.)
It’s the others. “You don’t need a PSA test, they are unreliable” and “Your numbers are a bit high. We need to watch this” or worse, “Everybody gets prostate cancer, but it’s slow growing. You’ll die from something else before you die from prostate cancer.”
Do any of these comments sound reasonable to you?
Ask your doctor for your numbers, that is the numerical result of your PSA test, and do your own research to find out what they mean. It’s your life. If what you read concerns you, request a biopsy. It’s the only way to know for sure.
If the biopsy says cancer, it means you are started on the adventure. Unfortunately, it is an expedition with no clear map to follow and almost no information about the destination.
On top of that, your brother, uncle, cousin and at least three specialists are standing on the side of the road telling you to go in different directions. And, another one, the doctor that said, “Lets just watch this,” is telling you to stay home.
For Dainius, he had at least three different recommendations. The first – watchful waiting –resulted in his late diagnosis. Once he was diagnosed, a family physician recommended surgery. And third, the oncologists and urologist recommending radiation and hormone ablation therapy (chemical castration) – drugs – and even they did not agree on the details.
On our adventure – I am using the word “our” because as the partner of a patient of prostate cancer you are also on an adventure – we found out too late, that early diagnosis means more treatment options and fewer side effects.
The drugs are no fun – like menopause times five or 10 for one to three years. The surgery is major, with high rates of complications like impotence and incontinence. Even some forms of radiation cause serious side effects.
Sitting in the waiting room of the radiation treatment facility, where Dainius received 45 days of radiation for his mid-stage cancer, we met and talked to a lot of guys. One fellow was 42 years old and being treated for aggressive, advanced-stage prostate cancer. There were other men in the waiting rooms whose cancer was caught early – no drugs required, no surgery, no severe side effects.
What am I trying to tell you? GET TESTED. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TREATMENT.
And come join us Saturday, May 29, on the Motorcycle Ride for Dad – as a sponsor or a rider. To donate or check out details of the Ride for Dad, go to www.motorcycleridefordad.org.
Registration is Friday evening from 5 to 8, or Saturday morning from 8 to 10:30, at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre. The city parade and ride starts from there.
I know I am going to be there and I am going to be talking about “IT”.
Oh, and if any of you want to talk about it, Dainius is available.