Saturday, September 8, 2012

How Fear Affects Your Choice of Treatment

After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was up to me to decide how to treat and defeat prostate cancer. Looking back, I wish I knew back then what I know today before I made the decision to have surgery.

 I discovered how you view your cancer has greatly impacts your choice of treatment. What I’m about to share isn’t true, but it’s what I believed at the time. It explains why I chose the surgical option. I envisioned microscopic cancer cells as little Pac-Men with razor sharp teeth on speed, chomping on the lining of my prostate. I envisioned these Pac-Men working silently, stealthily,  and ruthlessly, 24/7 with one mindless goal. They wanted to kill me. Nighttime was the worst time for me. Each and every night, I had difficulty falling asleep. Sleep became a bitter reminder that I was facing a superior enemy who had no need to sleep.

For many men Active Surveillance is the right choice to make. Given my imagery, the idea Active Surveillance was ludicrous and laughable. There was no way I was going to allow Pac-Men on speed, unfettered access to my prostate.

With my inaccurate vision in place I thought about radiation as a potential treatment option. I knew it would be impossible for a radiologist to kill every single cancer cell in my prostate. So I envisioned all that radiation could do was to kill a percentage of the invading army of Pac-Men in my prostate. I was convinced that legions of Pac-Men cancer cells would survive radiation remaining alive, well, and continue in their 24/7 battle to kill me.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize my picture was totally and completely inaccurate. In my situation my cancer cells could be pictured more like slow moving turtles that took a tiny step, then rested equally long. There are many men who have prostate cancer who live for decades without treating their disease, it’s possible I could have been one of those men.

Unfortunately, there is another reality. According to the American Cancer Society 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer. I did not want to be one of those men.

With my very active imagination and my Ph.D in worry I thought of my prostate as an organ that no longer functioned for my benefit. I believed my prostate was invaded and taken over by the enemy. In my mind, my prostate was an organ that no longer functioning for my benefit. Instead it was housing, hosting and feeding an enemy whose goal was to kill me. There was only one way to defeat this enemy and win this war. I wanted the enemy’s base of operations, my prostate removed as soon as possible.

With one hundred percent of my attention focused on achieving a victory, I did not pay much attention to the collateral damage and consequences of this treatment choice. Sadly, there is so much hype to promote surgery I wonder how may men make the decision for surgery based on their fear of cancer, without a compete understanding of how that treatment choice will permanently impact their lives.

My advice to anyone facing this decision is twofold. First, before you choose surgery find out more about your surgeon. How many surgeries has he performed? (You want someone with a few hundred surgeries) Also ask what percent of his patients regain urinary control and sexual functioning. Asking about the time frame of those recoveries is also important. With robotic surgery, results will vary based on the skill level of the surgeon. Given what is at stake, you want an experienced surgeon on your team.

Second, talk to many men who’ve had surgery. Ask them about the quality of their lives. Find out how long it took for them to regain urinary control and erectile functioning. I found that men on the internet in support forums for men prostate cancer were more than willing to talk about issues I’d never ask a man face to face. For example, you could ask how has surgery impacted the intensity and enjoyment of your orgasms. Nothing is too personal on the forums. Since most men are on line with pen names, they feel free to share the imitate parts of this journey that are difficult to talk about face to face.

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, take time to research the various treatment options.  Make sure to the best of your ability, the decision you make for treatment is based on facts rather than fear. I believe that’s what motivated me to develop a web page for men facing this decision.
The address is

It’s a brand new website. There’s a survey about surgery worth looking at on:  Since the forum is so new I’m the only one who has posted right now. It’s my goal, and mission to reach thousands of men before and after they make a decision to have surgery. Making a treatment decision for prostate cancer (or any other disease) based on fear, rather than facts, increases the likelihood of making the wrong treatment choice.

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