Ian Adamson tells us why he filled in the 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis' survey, and how his experience of being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer left him feeling it can all be a bit of a lottery how well you fare.
I filled in the survey because my perception and my outcomes have all been good. I hope the survey will give a clear indication of how good, bad or indifferent treatment can be and help guide future support.
My prostate cancer story goes back a long way. I started having problems peeing when I was 60. I went to my GP, who explained that it could be a prostate-related. I had a DRE (digital rectal examination) and there were no problems, and I talked about the pros and cons of having a PSA test. I thought about it for a bit, and eventually decided against it. It was an informed choice on my part.
Five years later, I went back to the GP for another DRE, which this time was abnormal. I decided to have a PSA test now and it came back with a level of 127. My urologist sent me for an MRI scan before I had the biopsy and – to be honest – the biopsy was the most unpleasant part of this whole experience! The MRI showed that the cancer had just broken out of the capsule. My urologist said that he’d discuss it with his MDT, but he didn’t really want to operate. A week later, he suggested hormone therapy and radiotherapy.
I was worried about whether I’d made the right decision not to have a PSA test when I first went to the doctor
I feel fine now, but I became very depressed in the first few months after my diagnosis. I’m still taking the tablets for it – the doctor said I could take them for the rest of my life. I was worried about whether I’d made the right decision not to have a PSA test when I first went to the doctor but, on balance, I know it was the right decision for me. And as my daughter said, when I spoke to her about it, in the end I was saved five years of worry.
I had hormone therapy for nine months, then radiotherapy, and then more hormone therapy for another 15 months. I hadn’t realised that there was such a range in quality of radiotherapy machines. I had most of my treatment on the top-notch machine, but sometimes it was on one of the others. It definitely felt less focused and I experienced more fatigue as a side-effect.
The hormone therapy also gave me hot flushes, but I lived in the Far East for 10 years so I learnt how to cope with constant sweating! That didn’t bother me too much. There were other side-effects, too: sex was definitely off the cards, but it’s been two years since I finished treatment now and I’m back to normal for a nearly 70-year-old.
Now my PSA is creeping back up, but it’s still below two. I’m leading a normal life – I just have to keep an eye on it and see if it changes.
I’m perfectly happy with the treatment I had. It’s just a pity that it’s so hit and miss. It really seems to be if not quite a lottery, definitely just down to statistics. There don’t seem to be any hard-and-fast easy answers.