Wing Prostate Cancer Information
Rob Kells passed away on August 9th, 2008 after a nearly two-year battle with prostate cancer.
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Advisory: Pilots and Prostate Cancer…
This web site seems like a strange place to read about this subject, but the average age of pilots is the target group that is most at risk.
Ahh, the dreaded “C” word – it seems that as we get older we are close to an increasing number of people who have cancer or are survivors. We tend to think ‘it’s what happens to other people’. Well, unfortunately it has happened to me. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer which has metastasized into my bones.
Most men get prostate cancer late in their life and die with it, not because of it. There is a simple blood test you should get every year called PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). Every man who is 40 or older should have this test done on a yearly basis. A result above 4.0 is considered enough of a concern that a prostate biopsy should be performed….advisedly with a local anesthetic.
I had a result of 4.2 about three years ago and had a biopsy done. It came back negative for cancer. Relieved, I got on with my life. But, this past year I was having increasing pain in my back and shoulders when flying. I went to see Orthopedic Surgeon Chris Wills and expected to hear the pain was due to arthritis. Because I had none of the usual symptoms associated with prostate disease, I was surprised when tests showed bone density changes and a PSA score of 253. Typical symptoms of prostate disease include enlarged prostate, a frequent need to urinate, weak flow, starting and stopping, blood in the urine, or pain when urinating.
You should also have a DRE (digital rectal exam), the dreaded finger in the butt exam (done with Vaseline, thanks very much). A Urologist should do this to determine if the prostate is enlarged, or has unusual nodules. An unusual finding in the DRE is cause for your doctor to order a PSA blood test. Insist a PSA is done every year, because if prostate cancer is detected before it gets outside the prostate, it can be treated with hormone deprivation; or it may not require any treatment at all, depending on the Gleason score determined by biopsy.
My Oncologist is a maverick in the field. He believes prostate cancers in general are highly over-treated. He does not recommend treating the vast majority of prostate cancers because they grow so slowly. Many times the treatment is more harmful than the cancer, so he only treats prostate cancers with a high Gleason score. The Gleason score is determined by looking at prostate cells under a microscope. The score ranges from 1 to 10; with 10 being the most aggressive, with rapidly dividing cells.
If the score is over 7, he gives his patients a triple hormone blockade therapy, and 15 treatments of low dose chemo, along with an anti-angiogenic (blood depriving) drug. He also uses Leukine to super-charge the immune system and stimulate the white blood cells that attack cancer cells.
He doesn’t recommend radiation or radioactive seeds as treatment, as radiation can cause collateral damage to nearby tissues, and seeds can migrate through the veins to other organs. He never does a prostatectomy, because statistical data indicates that it does not prolong life, and it has many undesirable side effects.
He doesn’t do surgical castration either, because once the hormone blockade treatment is complete, he gives his patients high doses of Testosterone. A high testosterone level helps kill prostate cancer cells, keeps them from learning how to grow without the hormone, strengthens muscles, increases mental acuity, and generally restores energy, resulting in an overall feeling of physical and mental well-being.
Through researching the increasing number of cancer events I’ve learned there is a probable correlation with a reduced Vitamin D blood level, most likely from less sun exposure and inadequate supplements. Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone that is naturally produced in our bodies when sunlight interacts with cholesterol in our skin. The hormone produced prevents cells from dividing fast, which is what cancer cells do. In the 1970’s we started using sunscreen, wearing hats and covering-up with clothing to prevent skin cancer. Since that time, breast, prostate, colon, and skin cancers have increased in younger people. Several clinical trials are being conducted using large doses of vitamin D (4,000-12,000 IU/day) to help treat these cancers. The current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is only 400 IU/day, which is just enough to prevent a child from getting rickets!
The bottom line is get your PSA checked every year, have your blood level for vitamin D tested, take vitamin D supplements, and be proactive regarding your health.
Having a positive mental attitude is important in fighting any disease. I know God’s in my corner, and with His help I’ll kick-ass and beat this cancer. I know many members of the hang gliding & paragliding community that have battled cancer and won. I appreciate all who have kept me in their prayers and sent encouraging messages. I hope to be around a long time, doing what I love – flying! See you in the air…