It’s a great feeling to have recovered from cancer – to have been through it all and to be living a full and happy life again. I have done it. —Australian Ian Gawler, founder of the Gawler Cancer Foundation
Deaths and survival
By Roger Childs
In NZ 650 men die of prostate cancer every year, but most of those afflicted survive. Conquering the cancer can depend on a number of factors. As with breast cancer, early detection is the key. For prostate cancer diagnosis based on PSA blood test results means that action can be taken sooner rather than later to nip it in the bud. (See Article 1 on 17 October)
Some years ago a visiting Australian medical academic made the point on New Zealand radio that most people with prostate cancer will die of something else – a stroke, a heart attack or just old age. However, obviously as with all cancers, some people have very serious symptoms and may be diagnosed as terminal cases.
My friend Graham Clouston in New Plymouth had a huge PSA count of 444 and was given only a few months to live back in 2017. Two years on his PSA is 0.28 and he is confident of living for at least another 20 years.
New Approaches – getting the body to fight back
Medical science is advancing all the time and the emphasis with treating cancer is starting to shift away from trying to kill the cancer cells with lengthy and painful programmes such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to infusion methods and building immunity to “instruct” healthy cells in the body to fight the cancer cells.
New Zealand and Australian research teams are at the forefront of world research and the Wellington based Malaghan Institute is on the cutting edge is pioneering CAR T-Cell Cancer Therapy. The Clinical Director Dr Robert Weinkove explains how it works.
By re-programming immune cells we can fight cancer in more precise and targeted ways in situations where existing treatments such as surgery chemotherapy and radiation are no longer an option.
He emphasizes that it is early days and the potential of the process is only just beginning to be understood.
Cures and side effects
Inevitably there are side effects from the various treatments currently available. (Again refer to the first article.)
For example side effects of Hormone Treatment (Androgen Depressive Therapy – ADT) include uncontrolled weight gain, loss of muscle and bone mass, erectile dysfunction, loss of energy and drive, among others, ADT is not considered to be curative. The drug injected as a 3 monthly implant is Zoladex.
Prostate removal, brachytherapy (radioactive implants )and radiotherapy are considered curative if the cancer is picked up early enough, and if it has not already spread into any surrounding tissue.
Some men can have their prostate removed but subsequently due to increasing PSA counts may need go on to have both radiotherapy and ADT, at the same time. This is not very desirable and the programme often has a poor chance of success.
Beyond medical intervention – lifestyle change
If you do what you always do, you get what you always got. —Prostate cancer survivor, Graham Clouston.
Ian Gawler attributes his experience of coming out the other side to a number of factors based around changing the way he lived. After medical procedures have been carried out, he advises:
- meditation as a tool for healing
- a regular exercise regime
- training the mind to think positively
- cancer fighting nutrition
- maintaining healthy emotions
- reducing stress in your life.
His book You Can Conquer Cancer has sold over a quarter of a million copies.
(In the next article we’ll look in detail at cancer-fighting nutrition.)