Monday, 14 May 2012

Rog T's Cancer Blog - A better day

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 49 years old and I recently had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. Latest PSA test in April gave another, lower reading of 3.0 - So all's well?  I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?

So today was meet the specialist day. This was to review my latest PSA results. They were good at 3.0. Last August the figure was 4.1. It seems to be on a downward trend. I discussed the result and the possibility of using the new procedure developed at St Thomas hospital using ultrasound. My consultant has clearly been asked a few times about this, given his world weary grin and response to the question. "It's not new and it's not quite as straightforward as the papers would have you believe". I persisted. He said "look, your tumour is so small that the MRI scan couldn't see it. The test wouldn't take you on, because there is nothing definable to cure. How would they know if it has worked? He recommended another MRI and another biopsy, to be scheduled in November. He said that as the PSA is currently on a downward curve, that the most sensible move is continued active surveillance.

So it was a good day. There are a few questions which do strike me. Firstly, assuming my cancer is shrinking and I'm not having any medication, should the doctors be interested in why? I am following a fairly strict dietry regime, following a fair bit of research on the subject. I have cut out all eggs and milk products, started buying organic fruit and veg where possible, I drink pomegranite juice and green tea. I've upped the antoxidant foods and cut out the processed meats etc as much as possible. I've also cut down the red meat.

Now maybe none of this is relevant, but I do wonder whether the NHS should be collating statistics for dietry regimes that work. When I've discussed the diet aspect with other sufferers, some say "That's a load old codswallop". Some have had this view confirmed by doctors. The truth is that there is statistical evidence that indicates some foods are beneficial. Collating proper statistics on a widespread basis would soon give hard information about the effectiveness. It is easy to forget that if a treatment is effective for 99% of the population, if 100,000 people have it, there will still be 1,000 who suffer. Virtually nothing is 100% effective. If we can make small changes that make huge statistically verified improvements to our prognosis, shouldn't we at least be given the information?

My biggest criticism of the NHS approach to early stage Prostate cnncer is the fact that I was given no detailed advice on dietry changes. I found out due to a chance conversation with a friend. I am not stupid enough to think that all of my problems are over. I also know that my diagnosis occurred at a very early stage.

What worries me is that many people will find themselves in my position (I've been told 1 in 5 men my age are in my position and 95% don't know, because they've not had a PSA test). I have sort of decided that the next film I produce will be "A Tale of Two Cancers" looking at the difference between early and late diagnosis, and various treatment options. I have decided that I won't feature anyone peddling cures, just people who have cancer talking about their experiences.

The end game will simply be to make people feel comfortable talking about what they are going through. When I sat down with Charles Honderick to make "A Tale of Two Barnets", I had no idea of what an impact the film would have. I had no idea that we'd sell out the Phoenix Cinema or take it to the House of Commons.

Will "A Tale of Two Cancers" have anything like the same resonance or effect? I truly have no idea. I hope we can help a few people, somewhere along the way. I will start seriously working on the project in September.

If you are interested in the project, send me an email in the sidebar. I am trying to raise £10,000 fund it. This will be used to ensure a better production quality than "A Tale of Two Barnets" and to promote it. As with "A Tale of Two Barnets" we will make usage of the film free for any cancer related groups who wish to use it for education or fundraising.

If I don't raise the cash, it will just not be as good a film as it could be. And before anyone asks, nope not a penny of the £10,000 will go in my pocket.

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