For GPs

‘Radiation therapy is worth considering’ – a prostate cancer patient’s story

27 Feb 2018

Does radiation therapy hurt? How big an effect will it have on your life? Will you still have good quality of life after treatment? These are some of the questions prostate cancer patients may have.  It is expected that about 18,000 men in Australia and 3000 men in New Zealand will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018. Not all will need treatment, but there are treatment options open to those who may.

Western Sydney patient Henry Wegwitz underwent radiation therapy as part of his treatment for prostate cancer after being diagnosed in 2003. Radiation therapy can, in some cases, be a preferred treatment option for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Here Henry tells his story to Targeting Cancer:

“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer ‘by accident’. I had been suffering hip pain so I went for a check-up. It was nothing bad – it felt like a stitch when you run – but I knew something wasn’t right. I had a blood test which showed that my PSA levels, which are an indication of prostate cancer, were quite high. I had a biopsy and they found my prostate cancer had metastasised into my pelvic area.

“It was devastating for me. I was always a fairly active and sporty person and in good health, which made it more of a shock.

“You need to retain a positive outlook, though. I think people don’t realise how powerful their own mind can be, so you have to remain positive.  I have a wife and a daughter, who is now 28 and I wanted to see her grow up and be happy. I just said, ‘I am going to beat this’.

“I didn’t used to know much about prostate cancer, but as I got into my 50s I realised it was something you needed to be aware of. At first I had tablet and injection treatment to help treat my cancer, but I was later told that it had spread to another bone. I had some radiation therapy to my pelvis which really helped control the pain. Years later as the cancer had not spread further and I was getting some urine symptoms, the radiation oncologist suggested I have some radiation therapy to the prostate gland as well.

“In my case, because the cancer had already spread, surgery wasn’t an option. Because I worked as a commercial project manager at Siemens, the large technological company, I had some awareness of radiation therapy. After discussing things with my wife and a radiation oncology team at Westmead Hospital in western Sydney, I decided to go for the radiation therapy to the prostate.

“I needed several weeks of radiation given five days a week. When I saw the treatment machines at first it was a bit daunting, but I kept saying to myself, ‘I trust these people, they know what they are doing’.

“The treatment didn’t hurt at all and was relatively easy to handle. They set you up, put tattoo markers on you to help guide the radiation and away you go.

“I made sure I stayed perfectly still during treatment as that’s important to help ensure its accuracy.

Henry Wegwitz has successfully undergone radiation therapy treatment for prostate cancer.

“Each treatment session didn’t take very long either. The whole process took only about two hours of the day in total, but the treatment itself was only about 15-20 minutes or so. I was able to go to work at 6.30am, leave at lunchtime for treatment and then be home for about 2pm.

“I’m now aged 71 and I’m feeling good. Since the treatment, my quality of life has been fine. Nothing really impedes me and I’ve also had limited side effects from the radiation therapy treatment.

“I go to the gym three times a week and I play golf twice a week. I think staying fit and maintaining a fairly healthy lifestyle allowed me to cope better with everything, so that’s one thing I would recommend to all men.

“The team who helped me were really caring people. They have become almost like family to me and I’m so thankful for the care they gave me.

“In January 2017 my PSA levels again rose quite high. That was a kick in the guts, but luckily I was given a new tablet treatment which has brought the levels back to very low levels.

“One positive thing from this experience was the amount of awareness my treatment helped raise. After I was diagnosed, I had friends and work colleagues asking me about radiation therapy and prostate cancer in general.

“I would say radiation therapy most definitely has its place in cancer treatment – either for cure, or even if your cancer has unfortunately spread, to improve pain or quality of life.  So it’s an option worth considering for sure. All I can say is trust your doctors, stay fit and healthy and make sure you are fully informed of all treatment options.”

For more information on prostate cancer, including diagnosis and statistics, click here.

For more information on how radiation therapy can help treat prostate cancer and more resources, click here.

Are you seeking help and more information regarding radiation therapy? Visit the Targeting Cancer homepage here.