Prostate cancer affects an alarming number of men every year. But being diagnosed with this cancer does not mean the end of the world— learn how these men took the disease head on, and what helped them win the battle.
A disease that affects only men, prostate cancer is the cancer that occurs in the prostate—an exocrine gland in the male reproductive system. An exocrine gland means one that secretes outside the body, for example, the sweat glands. Thousands of minute glands in the prostate produce a fluid that is a part of semen, and this fluid also nourishes sperm. The liquid in which the sperm travels is produced in the prostate gland, and this fluid flows into the urethra—a tube that goes through the prostate and carries semen and urine out of the body. Since the urethra goes through the prostate in men, the prostate gland also helps in urine control. This gland has epithelial cells that produce a protein known as PSA (prostate-specific antigen). If the PSA levels in a man are high, it might indicate either prostate cancer or some other condition of the prostate.
In most cases, prostate cancer originates in the gland cells – this is called adenocarcinoma. The disease starts with small alterations in the size and shape of the prostate gland cells. However, prostate cancer is usually quite a slow progressing disease and often shows no early symptoms; in fact, many men even die of old age, not even knowing that they were affected by this cancer. But prostate cancer is not a rare disease— it affects approximately 240,000 men in the United States every year, and is the most common kind of cancer in males. But the good news is that there are an increasing number of men who successfully deal with the disease and lead healthy lives. At present, there are over 2 million survivors of prostate cancer in the U.S.—which means that there’s no need to panic or get depressed if you have been diagnosed with the disease. There are various treatments available, and around 90 percent of men with the cancer are diagnosed at a less-advanced stage. We know that coping with any form of cancer is easier said than done, but there are some people who show us that you can fight all ends and emerge a survivor with help from the right kind of treatment, and the support of people around you. Here are the inspiring stories of three such men, who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, but decided to put all efforts into fighting the disease and emerged successful.
An editor for The New York Times, Dana Jennings had a troubled time dealing with the news that he had prostate cancer, when he was first diagnosed with the disease in 2008. “At first there’s just that sense of disbelief that you have prostate cancer. When you hear about people who have a serious disease, you always figure it’s going to be the other guy,” says Jennings. He was 50 at the time of diagnosis, and thought that the cancer could be treated quickly if he opted for a radical prostatectomy—the surgical removal of his prostate. But that didn’t pan out the way he thought, as after three months of being diagnosed he had an open radical prostatectomy, only to find that his Gleason score went up to nine from seven (the Gleason score is a grading system, which usually ranges from 2-10 for men with prostate cancer – with 10 being the worst prognosis). After the prostatectomy surgery, Jennings’ pathology tests brought even worse news—that the cancer had spread from his prostate to the surrounding tissue. Doctors told him that there was still a 50 percent chance that the cancer would return, even if hormonal therapy put it into remission.
33 sessions of radiation as well as Lupron injections (in order to control testosterone levels) were a part of Jennings’ treatment plan to fight the aggressive cancer. In addition, the hospital appointments five days a week for his radiation treatment left him awfully exhausted. It wasn’t easy by any standards, but what saw Dana through was his indomitable sense of humor. As he says, “If you can’t temper life with humor, you’re going to be very depressed when it comes to these type of situations.”
The side effects of surgery and other treatments that Jennings went through weren’t easy to live with either– incontinence and erectile dysfunction were major ones. Moreover, he went through a writer’s block as he tried to lead a normal way of life even as he was going through the treatment. But the support from his wife and children provided Dana added inspiration to deal with everything with a positive outlook, and spiritual healing helped as well. Today, Dana Jennings maintains a blog about prostate cancer through which he reaches out to others going through the same condition, and shares his experiences to educate and provide motivation for them to fight this disease.
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