Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Posts Tagged ‘biopsy

Latest Advances In Treatment Of Prostate Cancer And The Butterfly Effect

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The Blue Tiger

The Blue Tiger

The first blast of winter has reached my little tropical hideaway part of the world. There is a massive high pressure system south of the Great Australian Bight directing Antarctic winds right up the east coast of Australia. Night time temperatures have dropped below 10 degrees celsius with day time temps below 25 deg. It may not sound like a big deal to my southern neighbours but living in temperatures that average minimums of 25 deg to maximums of 35 degrees for nine months of the year it becomes a shock with the first winter blast in this part of the country.

At least the butterfly swarms are still passing by my verandah but I am guessing that this cold dry change will knock them back a bit for this year. Between March and May every year I can sit daily on my verandah and watch the procession of these beautiful creatures as they travel from the south in a northerly direction. I have even seen these swarms over the ocean 100 kilometers from land. Where they come from and where they are going I have no idea. They just happen here every year with the main type being the “blue tiger” but also many other species of all colours and sizes can be mixed with them.

Watching them the other day reminded me of an old metaphor called “The Butterfly Effect.” This was a theory exploring the concept of a small thing happening on one side of the planet (such as the flapping of a butterfly wing) can cause an immense reaction in one form or another on the other side of the world. It was part of a theory called the “Chaos Theory” and was generally attributed to calamities, however I believe in “Yin and Yan,” so the theory in my opinion should apply equally between good and bad.

One thing cancer has taught me, is to look at life more deeply and appreciate things in a more meaningful way, hence my fixation of my butterflies, their life cycle and the theory. Such a beautiful creature that evolves by unfolding itself from a lowly caterpillar after pupation. I like to believe the whole story offers hope that small actions can create massive changes for the good in this world. Mankind is still at the beginnings of meaningful good changes as witnessed by lifestyle differences. opportunities and other madness going on in the world; We are seriously out of balance. However the more developed countries involve themselves in the opportunity to continue to make advances in areas such as medical practices the more likely these advances will eventually filter throughout all the world. This then takes me to the subject I wish to offer readers in this article, regarding the advances made recently and where we are headed in the treatment of prostate cancer.

So how has treatment for prostate cancer advanced over the past number of years? Before I begin I should quote the following statistic for my readers. The prostate cancer 5-year survival rate has improved from 59% in 1986 to above 92% today, and likewise for most types of cancer the 5-year survival rate has increased. This increased survival rate is due to improved medical practices, the introduction of new drugs and/or the treatment methods and successful research outcomes.

In the case of prostate cancer, over 3300 men will die of this disease this year, even though it is still thought of as a slow-growing old mans disease. The truth is, that early low-grade prostate cancer is indeed slow to promulgate but there are high-grade aggressive varieties that are lethal, and indeed more younger men are now being diagnosed with this disease in their thirties and forties.

While PSA monitoring and DRE procedure have been the main indicators for biopsy; Research is searching for other prostate cancer markers to use, and several exciting pathological trials are underway. Medical imaging has also expanded, with much advances in imaging from MRI, CT and PET scans, along with ultrasound technologies. Much of this future researching and improvements should bring huge benefits in assisting doctors to discern at diagnosis, between the non lethal and lethal types of prostate cancers. This then, should have a great impact in decisions regarding primary treatment for the patient. Improved imaging should enhance the ability to locate and direct biopsies and also to better detect metastasis to bone and other tissues.

In the past few years there has been the introduction of new drugs such as Abiraterone Acetate (Zytiga) and Enzulutamide (Xtandi) which are advances in hormonal drugs offering greater survival rates, with less side effects. Sipuleucel T (Provenge) is an Immunotherapy drug and treatment, which stimulates the individual patients own immune system to attack cancer cells. Radium 233 (Xofigo) which is a radioactive type drug, used in the treatment of bone metastasis with prostate cancer.

Much research continues to search for and identify the different individual characteristics of prostate tumours. This may lead to drugs being available for specific types of tumours, and could lead to individual tailored drugs being used on a patient circumventing the need for current primary treatments of surgery and radiation. This could  have profound effects in preventing major life changing side effects.



There is much excitement and discoveries still to come in the medical world over the next decade, and I hope I am still alive to see much of it. Meanwhile I will keep admiring my butterflies for the hope they offer for a better world to come. Is it Possible?????? Perhaps.


Lee aka Popeye




Cancer Detection Using A Dogs Sense Of Smell

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A dogs Tail

A dogs Tail

I recently read an interesting article that has prompted me to present the information here for my readers. At the latest annual meeting of the American Urological Association a presentation was given by a group of Italian researches on the results of a study in the use of dogs to identify prostate cancer. The link to this article appears among other links at the end of this post.

As a young man I spent three years in the Australian army, two years as a member of a unique unit establishing a mine dog section to support our troops in Vietnam. Mine warfare on jungle trails and bunker systems had become a whole new ball-game for our defence forces needing new methods to counter the devices being used. This unit was formed in 1971 and was due to be deployed to Vietnam in November 1972. The new Australian Government however announced the withdrawal of our troops in August 1972, so the unit never deployed to Vietnam. The mine dog section of 1972 however evolved over the years into the modern era, where our soldiers depend on the use of what are now known as explosive detection dogs. Our current forces with these dogs have served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I can recall how amazed I was when time after time these dogs were able to locate explosive targets in all sorts of hidden positions, either buried or concealed in unbelievable locations. The size of the charges did not seem to effect the results, from large caches to microscopic residue found in a car boot. My admiration for a dog’s nose grew larger as we became involved with the early training of the custom drug dog training team. Two custom officers joined us for a period of time and together we successfully re-trained two of our mine dogs to locate drugs of all types. They of course went on to build the current drug detection units we see today.

So it was no surprise to me when I read the presentation and results on the study of dogs detecting prostate cancer at the AUA annual meeting. Further reading by me had me asking myself why this type of research has taken so long to be recognised and more widely promoted. I can only hope it will lead to a safer non evasive method of detecting cancer of all types for patients.

The following information may be of value in understanding what the results of the study could lead to in cancer detection. There are 220 million olfactory cells in a canine nose, compared with 50 million for humans. When dogs are trained to sniff for a target, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by the target. These chemicals are microscopic and are referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. The particular VOC’s emitted by explosives and drugs have been identified and hence electronic sniffers for these compounds are now in use as can be witnessed at airports.

It is the same for the detection of cancer. Specific microscopic VOC’s have been found in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients, as well as in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The most recent findings have spurred increased interest in dog cancer detection research, including efforts to determine the identity of the VOC’s emitted by different types of cancer. This would assist in the development of electronic devices that can mimic the accuracy of a dog’s sense of smell in detecting cancer in humans.

Now to the study results referred to at the beginning of my article. Two German Shepherds called Liu and Zoey (Ex Explosive Detection Dogs) were able to detect the presence of prostate cancer with an accuracy of 98.1 percent among more than 800 samples tested. These included samples from men with very low-risk disease, men with metastatic disease, healthy males, healthy females, and patients with non-neoplastic diseases or non-prostatic tumors. The dogs were able to detect low-risk and more advanced prostate cancers with equal facility.

In other areas Dina Zaphiris, a recognized dog trainer in America who works with canines on federally funded studies in detecting early cancer in humans. In 2009, Zaphiris, a dog trainer for 25 years founded the In Situ Foundation, a nonprofit organization that trains cancer detection dogs and conducts research in the field. In her studies, patients exhale through a tube on to a cloth, which captures molecules, or VOCs, of a malignancy. Trained dogs then sniff the cloths for cancer presence.

A Cause Worth Supporting

A Cause Worth Supporting

This information seems to back up the cliché that a dog is truly a mans best friend. The possibilities opening up with this work may be life changing in the early detection of cancer.

Lee aka Popeye.

Further Reading,0,4294267.story




Written by Lee

24 June 2014 at 11:42 pm

If I could turn back time – PCa Diagnosis

with 11 comments

It has taken me more than four years of living with Prostate Cancer to be able to offer advice aimed at those at risk and those newly diagnosed with the disease.

In particular, it is aimed at my son David as he is in the high risk group with a family background of PCa.  His father has it – that’s me.  My father died of it as did my grandfather.  In his mid forties, it is time for David to start monitoring the condition of his prostate.

I should ask him:-

  • If his PSA was high or a DRE found enlargement, would he want to know.
  • If he was recommended a biopsy, would he have it
  • If he was diagnosed with PCa, how would he react

When I was his age, I was so into living that I did not need or want to know  if my future was threatened.  I would not have listened to such doomsayers.

They say, ignorance is bliss.  Is it really?

FACT: Those with a family history of PCa have a higher risk of getting it than the general population.

FACT:  In the absence of symptoms, the only guide leading to diagnosis is the PSA blood test and if warrented, the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).  Current diagnosis of organ-confined prostate cancer

FACT: The only way to diagnose PCa is with a biopsy.  The PSA test and the DRE only indicate a need for a biopsy.

There is a new diagnostic test based on a urine sample taken immediately after a DRE called PCA3.  I am not aware if it is available yet here in Australia.

Look into the PCA3: a gene-based test to help deciding if biopsy is really needed

The Prostate CAncer gene 3 (PCA3) Assay is an additional tool to help decide if, in men suspected of having prostate cancer (PCa), e.g. those with a PSA between 2.5 and 10 ng/mL, need a prostate biopsy to diagnose PCa.  It discriminates better than PSA between cancer and benign/non-cancerous prostate diseases.

FACT:  If a biopsy is called for, don’t do anything until you are happy with the proposed procedure as there are different biopsy methods.

In performing a standard biopsy,  the doctor inserts a needle through the rectum into the prostate to remove small tissue samples from different regions/cores (usually 6-12) of the prostate. The tissue samples are then examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer is present. The patient often can return home the same day the prostate biopsy is performed; hospitalisation is seldom required. However, discomfort, pain and complications such as infection and bleeding may occur.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive biopsy tool that may help avoid the need for a biopsy.  Prostate ultrasound involves a probe about the size of a finger that is inserted a short distance into the rectum. This probe produces harmless high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, that bounce off the surface of the prostate. The sound waves are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images of the prostate gland.

Another option is MRI diagnosis that does not carry with it the considerable side effects of needle biopsies. (watch video)

FACT:  Don’t rush.  Time is on your side.  Prostate Cancer is slow growing so you have ample time to do your research before submitting to any procedure.

If you are diagnosed with PCa, pray that it is early on when it is contained within the prostate.  Whilst it is contained, it can be removed and you will no longer have PCa.  That, howeever, does not vaccinate you against ever getting it again. Once it escapes, you cannot ever get rid of the cancer.

In my case, it was far too late … too late for surgery … too late for curative radiation … and too late for chemotherapy.  The only available treatment was Hormone Therapy or ADT and you don’t want to go there if you can avoid it.

If I could turn back time … I would not have listened to my doctor nearly ten years ago when he talked me out of having a PSA blood test.  He said that it proved nothing.  It is just a measurement of the PSA TODAY.  If I had insisted when I asked for it, it would have been caught before it metastasized into my bones and I would not be sitting here writing about prostate cancer.

… but I can encourage David to start monitoring his prostate health … and I will.

How high can it go?



Four weeks ago, my PSA was 3400. 

Today it came in at 4600. 

Where does it end?

Written by Greg Naylor

13 July 2012 at 12:00 am

Posted in Greg Naylor, information, psa

Tagged with , ,

Prostate Cancer – Don’t Panic

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So, you have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Don’t panic! Time is on your side and that might help you make better treatment decisions than I did.

Did you know that there are three types of biopsies? Nobody told you? Well that’s par for the course. The doctors won’t tell – you have to ask. Without research, you will never find out if you received the least damaging procedure.

Prostate Cancer is a slow growing disease that, whilst it will not go away without intervention, will not take your life overnight. Many men fully live out their lives without being bothered by the cancer within.

There are five treatment options being radical surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy and active surveillance or watchful waiting.

The first four will leave you less of a man and damage your quality of life. In most cases, they will make you impotent with no further sexual activity … ever! Many also suffer incontinence either temporary or permanent. They will each damage your immune system making recovery much more difficult.

Before chosing any of these options, do anything you can that will boost your immune system. This is usually diet based eating foods with anti-oxidents but includes supplements like lactoferrin that I use or probiotics like  ‘Inner Health Plus‘. Do it now and maintain the only resistence your body has.

Within each of these four radical treatment groups, there are a number of options. It is not about which of the four treatments you will chose, it is about which alternative within that group is best for you.

For example, when I was diagnosed, I was recommended a TURP procedure which I blindly accepted. At that time I was unaware that there was more than one way it was done. I didn’t know that there was a nerve sparing procedure that does not take out your sexuality. It seems that my urologist didn’t do that procedure. Now, I am stuck with the consequences. The problem with specialists is that their particular procedure is the only one they understand.
This ‘multiple choice’ applies to each of the treatment options. It is your life and you need to chose the best option for yourself. Your doctors are too blinkered in their own methods to be a reliable ally.

Watchful Waiting and active surveillance give you time to research the best alternative for you. Even if your cancer is so far advanced that it will take your life, you are not going to change that – and that is the truth.

Take control of your treatment … do your research before accepting any recommendation.  Life is not a dress rehearsal – it is your life and your choice.

Treatment Options

A personal Introduction to Greg’s Apprentice

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Lee Gallagher – our new Contributor

I ask myself where do I begin this post as I am totally new to all of this but I guess the basics are the place to begin and then a summary of the events that brought me here as explanation of why I am posting here on Greg’s site.

My name is Lee Gallagher I am 64 years of age until 22nd September when it will tick around one more time.   I was born in Sydney but have lived in Queensland since 1972 after discharge from the Army where I was a mine dog handler in the Engineer Corp.   My wife Lynette and I chose to live here by the beach in a small community called Hay Point situated between Mackay and Sarina.

For the past 20 years I was employed as a VTS officer (Vessel Traffic Service) scheduling, monitoring and communicating with all the large bulk carriers and tankers arriving and departing the ports of Hay Point and Mackay.   A bit like air traffic control for shipping only slower. My wife and I have enjoyed many years of sailing up and down the Queensland coast, fishing and diving.   We also enjoy fossicking and gold detecting when we can get away. We have a son and a daughter who have supplied us with 6 grandsons and one granddaughter.   And that should just about round out the basics so I will move on to what brought me to this site.

Toward the end of January this year I suddenly started to have severe urinary problems which sent me to my GP who in turn did some blood tests and sent me on to the urologist.  It is an interesting fact that my PSA reading in January was only 4.4. (6.5 just prior to biopsy).   The nice urologist performed a DRE and set me up for a biopsy the results of which I received on the 5th March 2012.   I was expecting to be told that I had the popular old mans disease BPH which is not cancerous so I was mortified to be advised I had an aggressive cancer with Gleason score 9 (4+5).

Upon receiving a full copy of the biopsy report from the urologist I was even more concerned to learn that out of 18 core samples taken in six segments of the prostate all 18 core samples returned positive to Gleason 9 of between 90% and 100% cancerous tissue in each core segment.   The report stated that vascular lymph invasion was present as well as perineural invasion, to my uneducated mind I could see this was not good news.   Even though I was at first emotional and shattered by this news my wife and I decided that we would just have to face this as it is the cards we had been dealt, you just can’t will it all away toss your hand in nor ignore it, we just have to get on with it, go forward and  so began a fast learning curve for both of us.

I was sent for CT scans, lung X-rays, and a bone scan and all of these came back clear of metastases so my urologist has graded this tumour as a T3 locally advanced cancer meaning that it is likely the cancer has spread outside the prostate but only to the local areas and organs.   Surgery is not an option but ADT (hormone therapy) and radiation therapy is … but more on this in a later blog.

In our searches on the web I was able to receive all manner of technical information on this cancer but as I searched and searched gathering technical information I slowly started to look for more personal information.   How does this thing affect a persons life?  Who is out there having put up with all the illness events, the mental toing and froing?   How are these people dealing with the effects of this cancer?   I was searching for a real life mentor who could truthfully tell me what to expect as I began my trek down the track. (experience is invaluable).   Greg once said that he did not know how to die what a great truth that statement is who among us does know?   But here I am straying from my post. SOoooooo I started looking for more personal stuff and came across Greg’s Legacy and to my delight it was exactly what I had been searching for and I have to offer Greg my heartfelt gratitude for this stuff he has shared with us all.

One thing has led to another with me suddenly finding Greg’s site late in the scheme of things with Greg being four years down the track.   I sent a reply to Greg on one early morning as an answer to his question “Do you have or do you know anyone with prostate cancer” – and suddenly we two were having nightly conversations on certain subjects from poetry to cancer carers, some of these conversations may make it into full blown posts at a later time.   Greg finally asked me if I would consider coming on board to tell my story and continue the role for others coming behind and there will be many.

I was honoured to be asked as I was all new to this and I still feel like a fraud as in some ways I suspect I have not fully accepted my diagnosis.   I have read and re-read it and have again written it here, and I have to stop and insist to myself that, Yes Lee old mate, you have this freakin cancer and it is real, and it is advanced, AND IT IS NOT GOING AWAY ON IT”S OWN.   I took a few days to give Greg an answer as I needed time to accept and commit to this venture.   So there you have it.   I apologise to anyone who I have bored, I will try to be briefer in the future.   Looking forward to posting some stuff that someone down the track may think is helpful and I hope I do Greg proud in the way he sees this site to continue.   Thanks Mate

Catch you all again soon

Lee /aka Popeye

Written by Lee

5 May 2012 at 10:27 pm