Group provides support to men with prostate cancer
Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 29, 2014 at 10:23 a.m.
John Small never expected a visit to his dentist five years ago would be the start of his prostate cancer journey.
Prostate Cancer Alliance
The Alachua County Prostate Cancer Alliance meets 7-8 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the University of Florida Health Community Cancer Resource Center at Health Street, 2401 SW Archer Road. This event is open to anyone who has been affected by cancer, and those interested in learning more about prostate cancer.
■ Sept. 9: Speaker will be Dr. Cherylle Hayes, medical director of radiation/ oncology at North Florida Regional Medical Center.
■ Oct. 14: Speaker is Dr. Lynn Chako, a urologist at Malcolm Randall Veterans Administration Hospital.
"There were no symptoms with my cancer. During an appointment with my dentist, he took my blood pressure and said it was elevated. I went to my primary care doctor and he said no blood pressure medicine unless I had a PSA test," Small said.
Small, 65, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, intermediate stage. Today he is cancer free.
Small is a member of the Ocala Prostate Cancer Support Group, which formed in March as an offshoot of the American Cancer Society Man to Man program. The support group seeks new members and encourages discussion about the disease, particularly during September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
The group's mission: provide a place each month where men diagnosed with prostate cancer can gather and talk. Survivors, wives and caregivers also are invited, according to information provided by group chairman Steve Austin, 67, who was declared cancer free in June. General health issues for men will also be discussed.
"We want to reach out to the entire community," Austin said.
During a recent meeting, members spoke about their initial diagnosis. One member said many men feel "invincible" and don't monitor their health. Small explained he was "clueless" about his prostate cancer.
Small's wife of 39 years, Cassie, said her husband feels it's his "Christian mission" to help others and share his message of hope about what he calls a "life and death issue."
"When I play golf I wear my hat with the initials UFPTI on it. When people ask me what they mean, I explain it stands for University of Florida Proton Treatment Institute, where I received 39 proton beam treatments over eight weeks while maintaining my work schedule," said Small, who travels in Marion and surrounding counties as an office equipment salesman.
The UF Proton Treatment Institute Of Jacksonville is one of only 14 centers nationwide, and 45 worldwide, for proton beam radiation treatment.
UFPTI spokeswoman Theresa Makrush said about 50 percent of institute patients are treated for prostate cancer.
Proton beam radiation is one of several treatment options for prostate cancer. Treatment options depend on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer and the patient's preference.
The Prostate Specific Antigen blood test (PSA) and digital rectal exam are vital parts of tracking prostate health and diagnosis, according to Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute CEO Dr. Norman Anderson, host of the roundtable.
In Small's case, a PSA test in 2002 showed 1.7. In 2004 it was 3.7. Just before his 2009 diagnosis, his PSA reading had increased to 13.6, and he was referred to a urologist.
Twelve needle biopsy samples were taken from the walnut-sized prostate. There was a 61 percent probability of cancer in the gland.
Anderson said an important aspect of the PSA test is to monitor "rapid changes" in the numbers. While a reading up to 4 may be normal, a fairly rapid change from a 1.7 to a 3.7 is just as significant as higher numbers.
"You may be a ticking time bomb without this information," Anderson said.
After his diagnosis, Small began a long and detailed search for the right treatment, based upon his cancer and potential side effects. Options included several types of radiation treatment and implantation of radioactive "seeds." In some cases surgery or robotic surgery is considered.
Small posted a detailed history of his prostate cancer journey on a support website, "You Are Not Alone Now," which can be found at www.yananow.org.
Several other Ocala Cancer Prostate Support Group members also shared their experiences at the roundtable.
Austin, the group chairman, received 43 Intensity Modulated Radio Therapy treatments at Robert Boissoneault and is now considered cancer free. His PSA reading, once at 4.55, is now at 0.3.
Jim Miller, 81, was diagnosed at age 78. Conrad Massa, 86, was diagnosed at 77. Both decided on radiation treatments at Robert Boissoneault.
Rollin Schwab, 77, diagnosed at age 65, received radioactive seed implantation therapy.
"During my treatment, a lesion was found on my bladder. It was treated and (the treatment) may have helped me avoid bladder cancer," Schwab said.
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