Thursday 4 February 2021

Rog T's Cancer Blog - On world cancer day, could 2020 turn out to be the best year ever

 Social media is seeing all manner of posts about 2020 and how it is the worst year ever. I must admit that from a social activities standpoint it is hard to disagree. But we sometimes need to sift through the coals of a fire. If we are lucky, we might even find diamonds and gold. As someone who has lived with cancer now for nearly ten years (that I knew about), I have a slightly different perspective. As regular readers will know, I had an experimental HiFU treatment as part of a trial at UCH in 2016 for Prostate cancer.I suspect this has made me less sceptical and more trusting of the medical profession. I for one would have no hesitation having a Covid vaccine. I was, rather selfishly, hoping my cancer diagnosis would help me jump the queue (it hasn't). It would have been one of the few perks. 

Before lockdown an anti vaxxer sceptic asked if I'd take it. I said "Yes, tomorrow". When he started to spout all of the nonsense he'd seen on Youtube, I simply said "Look mate, I'm not going to try and convince you, but I took part in a medical trial that has allowed me to live with cancer perfectly well for the last five years and I'd be more than happy to trust a doctor if they said it was safe, because they are qualified to know, whereas you are a bloke who watches Youtube videos". If there was a jab that killed cancer and had passed a medical trial, I'd happily be the first in the queue. 

A year ago, none of us had a clue what covid was. I was looking forward to football, music, a holiday in the USA and my 15th wedding anniversary party in April. We all know how that went. When covid first emerged, we heard talk that there had never been a successful deployment of an RNA vaccine. We heard that money would be thrown at the problem. I thought it unlikely that we'd have one any time soon. Within a few months, the first trials were started. Now we hear that it is even more effective than expected. Not only that but we have a whole range to choose from, all of which work in a different way. 

It is amazing what human beings can do, when they have the will and the financial support. I am in awe of what researchers and the pharmacutical industry have done in such a small period. What is perhaps even more exciting is that having cracked this nut, there are plants springing up to manufacture vaccines across the globe. When covid is beaten, there will be huge capacity to produce other vaccines, that might just address many of the endemic problems of the third world. If this happens, we may well look back on 2020 as the year when humanity pulled together and actually addressed issues that they should have dealt with 50 years ago.

Another point worth considering is what this will do for cancer research. Cancer kills approx 9.5 million people a year across the globe. This dwarfs the number that covid will kill. Now we have proven as a race that we can, if we put our minds to it, beat seemingly invincible diseases, surely we should be turning our fire on cancer? Is a vaccine for cancer a feasable goal? I am not qualified to even speculate. From what I've read, the secret to beating cancer lies in understanding DNA. It does't seem to ridiculous to imagine a day when we all get a DNA test and get given a personalised drug that turns off the gene's that cause the cancers we are most susceptible to. What I do know is that this will only happen with political will and serious resources.  What we have done in 2020 has shown that we can climb these mountains.  That alone should give us all hope. 

Interestingly, on a slightly more personal note, there was a report in yesterdays Daily Express that seems to indicate there have been improvements to the HiFU procedure that I had in 2016. This is also good news.

When covid is done and dusted, we really should lobby for the resources thrown at covid to be made available to fight cancer, that not only kills far more people, but devastates peoples lives and costs governments billions to deal with. To me, it seems to be plain common sense.

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, there's what this is all about. I write this blog because knowledge is power and if you know what you are dealing with, you have more weapons in the locker to fight it. It is a personal view, I'm not medically qualified. This is for the sole purpose of information for those who are interested.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 54years old and in October 2011 I  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 gave me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I was put on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down again at 4.6. In October 2015 I had a transperinial Prostate biopsy, that revealed higher grade cancer and my Gleason score was raised to 3+4 (Small mass + more aggressive cancer). On 22nd Jan 2016 I had HIFU (Hi Intensity Focused Ultrasound) treatment at UCHL). My post procedure PSA in May was 4.0 which was down, followed by 3.7 in August, and 3.5 in October  which means that the direction is positive . However in January the follow up MRI revealed "something unusual which requires investigation" After a follow up biopsy, it appeared this was nothing to worry about. My two most recent PSA tests were Ok (3.7 and 4.6) and an MRI scan in March was very positive. A  PSA in October 2019 was 4.6, so stable and good news, the last in May 2020 was 5.45 a small rise, so worrying, however after a review against the most recent MRI, it was decided that this was fine.

  I've no symptoms apart from needing to wee quite regularly and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture? 

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