OKLAHOMA CITY – Every year, 70-year-old Robert Hale sees his family doctor for his annual wellness exam and blood work, which includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer.
After a couple of years of increasingly elevated PSA results, Hale’s doctor referred him to a urologist who performed a biopsy and discovered that he had prostate cancer growing at a medium rate.
“I didn’t even know I had it,” said Hale. “I had no symptoms of it. Unless you get screened, a lot of this stuff can go on for years and you won’t even know it until it’s too late.”
According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, men are 24 percent less likely to have visited a physician in the last year compared to women.
A simple visit to the doctor can prevent or slow the development of many medical conditions and may lead to the early detection of cancer. Early diagnoses may save time and money by avoiding costly treatments, and may also save lives.
Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. On average, one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, most commonly in men, like Hale, who are over age 65. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from the disease if caught early.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that men speak to their physician to decide whether to screen for prostate cancer through either a baseline PSA blood test and/or digital rectal exam beginning at age 45. In some cases, screening may not be recommended.
If patients receive abnormal results from the PSA or digital rectal exam, doctors can perform biopsies and other exams to make an accurate diagnosis. There are several treatment options for individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and active surveillance (monitoring without treatment) based on the disease progression and patient’s wishes.
A ‘Painless’ Treatment
Hale opted for radiation treatment at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. He could have had his prostate removed through surgery, but decided he did not want to deal with the side effects of the surgery, which can include incontinence (uncontrolled urination).
Since mid-August, Hale has received image-guided radiotherapy treatments on the TrueBeam machine once a day, five days a week. He will have 44 radiation treatments total and said the treatments only take a few minutes — much shorter than the drive from his home in Luther, Oklahoma.
The TrueBeam machine is a non-invasive, image-guided system that enables radiation oncologists to pinpoint the location of the tumor during treatments.
“So far, the treatments are painless and the people are really sweet” at Mercy, said Hale. “If it cures the cancer, then praise the Lord.”
Next spring, Mercy will open the Coletta Building at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. The facility will offer cancer and breast health treatments and research. It will also feature the latest technology and one of the largest medical oncology groups in the area.
Among the cutting-edge technology will be the Calypso® 4D Localization System,™ which is a GPS-like technology that involves implanting beacon transponders into the tumor that give off radiofrequency signals for real-time tracking of the tumor during treatments. The Calypso system can be used to administer stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) to treat early-stage prostate cancer. SABR consists of five high-dose treatments compared to the standard 42 to 44 treatments.
"Not only will it speed up the treatment time, it will also limit radiation to the surrounding tissue and minimize the side effects of the treatment,” said Dr. Astrid Morrison, radiation oncologist at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City.
Hale has a long family history of cancer and said he is thankful to have gone as long as he has without developing cancer. He is also thankful for what he considers “marvelous” care at Mercy, and believes early diagnosis is key.
“What I would tell folks is don’t wait until you feel it or when cancer has you on the downward slope,” he said. “You need to get your regular check-ups and try to catch it at the earliest stage possible.”