Thursday, January 28, 2010

blood donation

I gave blood yesterday for the first time in years.

The American Red Cross now allows prostate cancer patients to donate if it has been at least a year since treatment, and there is no sign of recurrence. The same holds true for most other cancers.

This is a change from past rules, which said it had to be five years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If you can help Tim Johnson...

I have been in contact with the family. If you would like to give by PayPal or by mail, I have that information. Email me at .

If we all give a little, we can help a lot. In the last month, 465 of you visited my little blog here. You came from 46 states and 55 countries. Can you imagine the impact, if just half of you threw $10 Tim's way?

In case you're wondering, I don't know Tim or anyone in his family (or town, for that matter). I read his story this morning, following a link on

Let's see what the power of the blogosphere can do.

Whatever you're doing right now...

I urge you to stop what you're doing now, go to this news story, and ask yourself what you can do to help this guy with advanced prostate cancer. We can't do everything, but we can all do a little. We're all brothers in this fight, right? Let's all do a little to help, and combined, that will mean a lot.
Tim's Story

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Salvage RT and ADT Compared: Study

Researchers in South Korea have found that when PSA rises after prostatectomy, treating men first with salvage radiation and then hormone therapy later, if needed, controls PSA in most cases and slows clinical progression, compared to hormone therapy alone.

49% of the patients failed salvage radiation during the study, after an average of 30.7 months. Those patients were then put on ADT. 14% of those patients successfully controlled their PSA with ADT for 20.7 months, leaving 86% who controlled their PSA for over 3 years.

Fast doubling times (less than 3 months) were predictive of RT failure.

Treatment failure and clinical progression after salvage therapy in men with biochemical recurrence after radical prostatectomy: radiotherapy vs androgen deprivation.

Song C, Kim YS, Hong JH, Kim CS, Ahn H.

Departments of Urology and Radiation Oncology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.

This is personally troubling to me on a couple of points--first, my doubling time was very fast--well under 90 days. Secondly, this study reinforces my belief that I'm far from out of the woods. I'm a little under three years out from the end of salvage radiation, just about the point, on average, where men who fail RT see their PSA rise again. Obviously, I need to keep monitoring my PSA. If it begins to rise and the doubling time is as fast as it was before treatment, I should probably not delay hormone therapy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

another excellent PSA

Just got the results from the nurse. Less than 0.1 once again. It's been about 3 years since I started salvage radiation, or about 34 months since the end of treatment.

I always think it's going to be bad news, and so far it's been just the opposite every time. Years to go before I can start to say "cured," of course.

Photo credit: Bithead (Creative Commons license)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Outcome of salvage radiotherapy for biochemical failure

Outcome of salvage radiotherapy for biochemical failure after radical prostatectomy with or without hormonal therapy.

Not sure how I missed this one--probably because I usually search "radiation" and not "radiotherapy"--but a study from MD Anderson in 2005 reaffirmed the idea that the earlier you start, the better, with salvage. Like Stephenson et al at Cleveland Clinic, they found that the best results were obtained when the man's pre-radiation PSA was 0.5 or less.

The MD Anderson study put men into two groups: favorable and unfavorable. Those in the favorable group had pre-RT PSAs of 0.5 or less, and positive margins. Unfavorable included everyone else. 81.7% of those in the favorable group had no PSA progression 5 years later, compared to 61.7% in the unfavorable.

I'm in the unfavorable group. The 61.7% chance of being progression free at 5 years (which would be spring of 2012 for me) matches up well with other research I've read.

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2005 Sep 1;63(1):134-40.

Outcome of salvage radiotherapy for biochemical failure after radical prostatectomy with or without hormonal therapy.

Cheung R, Kamat AM, de Crevoisier R, Allen PK, Lee AK, Tucker SL, Pisters L, Babaian RJ, Kuban D.

Department of Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

BACKGROUND: This study analyzed the outcome of salvage radiotherapy for biochemical failure after radical prostatectomy (RP). By comparing the outcomes for patients who received RT alone and for those who received combined RT and hormonal therapy, we assessed the potential benefits of hormonal therapy. PATIENTS AND METHODS: This cohort was comprised of 101 patients who received salvage RT between 1990 and 2001 for biochemical failure after RP. Fifty-nine of these patients also received hormone. Margin status (positive vs. negative), extracapsular extension (yes vs. no), seminal vesicle involvement (yes vs. no), pathologic stage, Gleason score, pre-RP PSA, post-RP PSA, pre-RT PSA, hormonal use, radiotherapy dose and technique, RP at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and time from RP to salvage RT were analyzed. Statistically significant variables were used to construct prognostic groups. RESULTS: Independent prognostic factors for the RT-alone group were margin status and pre-RT PSA. RP at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was marginally significant (p = 0.06) in multivariate analysis. Pre-RT PSA was the only significant prognostic factor for the combined-therapy group. We used a combination of margin status and pre-RT PSA to construct a prognostic model for response to the salvage treatment based on the RT group. We identified the favorable group as those patients with positive margin and pre-RT PSA < or =" 0.5" p =" 0.03).">

PMID: 16111581 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Characteristics of prostate cancer in men less than 50-year-old

A literature review by French doctors:

Prog Urol. 2009 Dec;19(11):803-9. Epub 2009 Jun 4.

[Characteristics of prostate cancer in men less than 50-year-old.]

[Article in French]

Peyromaure M, Valéri A, Rebillard X, Beuzeboc P, Richaud P, Soulié M, Salomon L;
les membres du CCAFU.

Service d'urologie, hôpital Cochin, 27, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Jacques, 75014
Paris, France.

OBJECTIVE: To report the characteristics of prostate cancer (PCa) in men less
than 50-year-old and the results of different treatments of PCa in this
population. METHOD: A bibliographic research was performed using Pubmed database.
The keywords that we used were: prostate cancer, age, young, radical
prostatectomy, brachytherapy, radiotherapy, active surveillance. The studies
which included a significant number of patients were selected. A total of 38
articles were used as bibliographic references. RESULTS: PCa in young men does
not seem to have different characteristics than in older men. Nevertheless, young
men seem to have a lower risk of severe urinary and sexual sequelae, particularly
following radical prostatectomy. CONCLUSIONS: There is no recommendation
regarding management of PCa in men less than 50-year-old. In case of localized
cancer, two options may be considered. First option consists in decreasing the
urinary and sexual complications of radical prostatectomy. A minimally-invasive
treatment, such as brachytherapy or even active surveillance, may reach this
objective. Second option consists in being more aggressive. To propose a radical
prostatectomy offers to the patient the possibility of salvage radiation therapy
in case of locally-advanced tumor or local recurrence.

PMID: 19945663 [PubMed - in process]

Schrödinger's cat

I don' t see the doctor for a couple of weeks, but I wasn't doing anything this morning, so I figured why not have a stranger stick a needle in the soft inside part of my elbow and let blood run out into a tube. So that's what I did.

I wonder if the phlebotomist thinks, even for a moment, about the role she is playing in the drama of life and death. Does she understand the portent? Perhaps it's better if she doesn't; or else her hands would be shaking so hard she couldn't do the job.

Up until the blood draw, I feel like I don't have prostate cancer anymore. But as soon as it is drawn, and before I get the results, it's like I'm in some kind of no man's land. Either the radiation wiped it out or it didn't. But at this point, I feel like Schrödinger's cat, both alive and dead at the same moment. Or rather, saved and doomed. It's not until I get the results that the probability wave collapses on itself and I become one or the other.

I know, I know. Quantum effects don't hold up in the macro world of people, tumors, and tubes of blood. But that's how it feels.

Sometime late next week, I'll call the nurse and get the result. At that instant, I will either push prostate cancer to the back of my mind and go about life pretty much as I have the past year; or I will start down a path that will quickly lead to the end of my sex life and eventually, the end of life itself.

It's like every 6 months my life path has two forks--two possible doors.

Photo credit: Annie Mole. Used Creative Commons (cc) license.