Personal cancer story
Wallace H. Crellin
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, although I had no symptoms. My GP suggested she perform a DRE (digital rectal examination), and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test, based on the fact I was a man over 50 years old and was therefore in the risk group for prostate cancer.
My PSA level was normal, but a re-test six months later showed it had doubled. A biopsy then detected cancerous cells.
A CAT scan and bone scan came back clear, suggesting it hadn't spread. As many prostate cancers grow slowly (without requiring treatment or intervention and not having a significant impact on your life), I decided not to have treatment, but wait and see what happened. The biopsy had resulted in both severe bleeding through the urethra, which didn't clear totally for a month, and an infection that was to last for years.
I had PSA tests every three to six months for 10 years after diagnosis. Over the 10 year ‘watchful waiting’ period my PSA rose, but not alarmingly, and it was recommended I undergo a course of radiotherapy.
At about that time, I started having difficulty urinating. I was told that my prostate had grown and had started to cause a blockage. If it were not cleared before treatment started, there would very likely be a major problem during radiotherapy.
Wallace H. Crellin
My PSA level was normal, but a re-test six months later showed it had doubled. A biopsy then detected cancerous cells."
I had an operation called a TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate), commonly called a re-bore, where part of the urethra and the central part of the prostate causing the blockage were bored out and tested for cancerous cells. It turned out that, as expected, my urination problem was due to a benign prostate gland enlargement and not caused by my cancer having grown.
Difficulty urinating, or frequent urinating, are symptoms often due to a benign enlarged prostate rather than cancer.
My side effects from radiotherapy included radiation proctitis and radiation cystitis (bleeding from the bowel and bladder respectively, from radiation burns).
It would be interesting to know what would have happened if I had not had tests. The two biopsies I had were unpleasant and I believe quite dangerous. The infection, a common side effect, had a most undesirable effect on my life, and the bleeding was quite scary. Since my PSA remained virtually unchanged for 10 years after first diagnosis, it is tempting to think that without the infection, I could have continued with an absolutely normal life for some time.
As it was, by adopting watchful waiting I did not run the risk of incontinence or impotence from having treatment, and for that I am thankful.
My PSA test results were at acceptable levels for some six years after radiotherapy when I had surgery to remove bladder stones. After that, my PSA continued to rise, reaching an alarming rate in 2014. I assumed that I had another infection and managed to talk my urologist into treating me for that. Big mistake! The drug gave me unpleasant side effects and the rate of increase of PSA didn't stop – it was almost doubling over a six-month period. This led to an intensive set of tests, including scans which indicated that there were five small lesions in the bones in my pelvic area, indicating metastatic cancer.
I was prescribed androgen deprivation therapy and had an amazing response! After three months my PSA dropped from 27 to 7 and after a further nine months it was down to 0.11. It is now 0.05 and my urologist tells me that I am now in remission – after 22 years!
Side effects were tenderness in the breasts, followed by somewhat enlarged breasts. Also, I was quite hairy before I started, but now I have lost all hair on my body and legs. Neither of these is a problem for me.
Many things have changed over those 22 years and research is being undertaken to find a better method for detecting prostate cancer.
Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer