Chris Hansen’s story

Synopsis

Increasing PSA; biopsy positive (Gleason Score of 6); radical suprapubic prostatectomy September 2007; pathology tests indicated containment of the cancer within the prostate; recovery without complications; some short-lived impotence; no problems with incontinence. PSA now less than 0.04 and predicted ‘survival rate after 10 years’ is 98%. Life now back to normal.

Moral of the story
You are the master of your fate and you need to make your own decisions about medical treatment and take action.  Don't blindly accept medical advice: while my treatment was successful it came about because I insisted on a biopsy when the advice was to wait another six months.  If I hadn’t had a biopsy I might still be unaware of what by now could have been a more advanced prostate cancer with diminished chances of a complete cure.   While a possible outcome of treatment might be impotence or incontinence, denial could well cause an early and painful death.

Full story
My experience with prostate cancer began in September 2006 following a routine medical examination. My GP advised a consultation with a specialist urologist following a high PSA reading. The next month I was given a full set of tests by the specialist who found no obvious concerns; he suggested a further PSA test in six months.

Early in 2007 I ran into someone handing out pamphlets about prostate cancer. We discussed the issue and it certainly made me think further about the possibility of cancer and its implications, however my wife and I were planning a holiday to South America in April, so the issue sank into the background.

We returned in mid May and shortly afterwards I had a second meeting with the urologist. Although my PSA reading had increased it was now below the limit due to my turning 60 since the last test (at that time the limit increases from 3.5 to 4.5 once you reach 60). He advised me to either wait another six months and be tested again or undergo a biopsy. For the sake of certainty and to eliminate any possibility of serious disease I chose to have a biopsy.

A few weeks later I arrived at John James Day Surgery Unit for the biopsy. This was over by late afternoon and I arrived home little the worse for the experience. However after a couple of days I began to lose increasing amounts of blood on urination. Since the urologist had gone on holidays and my GP was in the process of moving to another practice, I went to Emergency at Royal Canberra Hospital. A young intern was able to assure me the blood loss was normal and that it would cease in a couple of weeks.

“You have carcinoma and it's stage 6” these were the words my GP greeted me with at the consultation. I don’t remember much else of what he said, although I was disturbed that he shook hands and wished me luck on the way out. My mind was racing; for the first time in my life I was facing the possibility of imminent death; I went home and told my wife the news. She was a source of strength to me at this time and we resolved to have the problem dealt with as soon and as decisively as possible. I made contact with the local prostate cancer support group and shortly afterwards received a call from them. It provided much needed advice and assistance, most especially in explaining what “stage 6” meant (it was actually a Gleason score of 6 which indicated a relatively modest prostate cancer).

My GP had given me a referral to Dr Philip Stricker in Sydney and I arranged an appointment for mid July. Dr Stricker proposed a ‘nerve sparing radical prostatectomy’ and an operation was scheduled for early September. During the time leading up to the operation I had plenty of opportunity to consider the possible outcomes of the operation and the potential effect on my future life.

The suprapubic prostatectomy operation took place on 4 September 2007 and was straightforward with no complications. I went to theatre at 8 am and woke up around midday. I was confined to bed for another couple of days during which time Dr Stricker came in with the pathology results. These were encouraging, showing the cancer was contained within the prostate. I left hospital after four days but stayed in Sydney for another couple of days for the removal of the catheter. This had been described to me by a veteran of the operation as similar to starting a chainsaw – but in fact it was quite painless.

My recovery was uneventful with no unexpected side effects. The expected impotence was relatively short-lived and incontinence was not a problem. We returned to Sydney in October for a review with Dr Stricker. He confirmed the pathology results which were backed up by a PSA which was now less than 0.04 and predicted a 98% survival rate after 10 years.

I resumed my part-time job at that time and since then have had further PSA tests, also coming in at less than 0.04.

In summary I seem to have had almost a textbook recovery from prostate cancer.  Our life has now resumed its normal course with my wife and I planning a holiday in Spain in September, armed now with the knowledge that we are not immortal.

Chris Hansen
10 June 2010

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