Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine

The world is obsessed with vaccines. Well, in truth, it’s those vaccines that will hopefully set us free from COVID and allow us to return to something close to call normal life.

The link between fighting COVID and cancer

At the time of writing, at least 150 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US, and I have received both my Pfizer shots. The Pfizer vaccine was developed in conjunction with the German company BioNTech. BioNTech, a relatively small firm, needed the muscle of pharma giant Pfizer to help run large clinical trials and scale up mass production to meet global demand.

Prior to turning their attention to coronavirus, BioNTech had been working on finding ways to help the immune system tackle cancer. Following the success of their COVID vaccine, the value and profile of the company has grown, increasing its potential ability to have access to resources that will help in their continuing fight against cancer.

Exploring the connection

Interestingly, there is direct cross-over in the research required to beat coronavirus and cancer. In many instances, both use mRNA-based vaccines that enable the immune system to attack a predatory intruder.

Read on…

Let’s Talk About Cancer: Part Three

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

An upbeat chat about a difficult topic

Walking in the park with my dog Rusty, we met a neighbor taking his dog Monty for a walk. Monty is a fine Border Terrier and he and Rusty get on very well. I knew the neighbor’s wife had contracted breast cancer early last year, but they had gone to live in their country house during lockdown, so I’d heard nothing about her condition.

We are not close friends, but he knows I have prostate cancer, as he reads my blogs. His wife has been through the mill. On four occasions she was scheduled to have surgery, all four were cancelled at the last minute. Now she has been told her cancer has grown so large that an operation is out of the question. Read on…

Let’s Talk About Cancer: Part Two

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends. Read Part 1.

Keeping it to yourself

I’ve heard of some cancer patients who want to keep their condition completely private to the extent of not even telling their partners. As my wife was with me when I learned about my condition, this was not a conversation I had to have. Actually, it was more the case that I was so shaken I used to litter subsequent conversations asking what the doctor had actually said.

I would just add here – and perhaps this is just because I’m a journalist – but when I see a doctor these days, I always take notes. Of course, you will get a doctor’s report, but I find it handy to keep a record.

On one occasion my PSA level took an unexpected rise, which gave me a severe case of the collywobbles. I forgot to write it down. So later on when I’d calmed down, I was unable to dredge up my score, which got me worrying further. A call to the doc soon set me straight.

Read on…

Let’s talk about cancer: Part one

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends.

Blitzed and confused after a diagnosis

You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. You feel blitzed, confused, and frankly terrified. Who are you going to tell?

There’s certainly no one answer to that question, and there’s no right answer either. You’re scared and bewildered, and of course we know that if you tell someone you have cancer, then their first thought is going to be: “Oh he’s going to die soon.”

Cancer is a big bag of unwelcome knowledge that you suddenly find yourself hefting on to your shoulders. You may want to turn to family and friends, or you may not. But one thing is certain: it’s tough to turn cancer into small talk.

Read on…

Is Nationwide Prostate Cancer Screening on the Horizon?

As of this writing, it’s now thirty-eight months since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, twenty-eight months since I completed thirty-nine radiotherapy fractions, and six months since my three-year course of hormone therapy injections came to a close.

Last week I spoke to an oncologist about my case and learned the welcome news that my cancer still remains undetectable and has done so for almost eighteen months. My PSA currently stands at 0.03.

Side effects continue

All good news, though unfortunately despite not having had a hormone shot for nearly six months I’m still getting the side effects (hot flashes, lack of the libido), which I had hoped might be making their way out of the door about now. Unfortunately, I may have to put up with them for another year or so as the testosterone starts to make its sluggish way back into my system.

Prostate cancer feeds on testosterone, so as that happens my PSA level will likely rise. If it continues to do so, I could find myself back on treatment and once again riding on the whole unlovely merry-go-round.

Read on…

Prostate Cancer Screening At A Supermarket

It sounds like science fiction, but according to Mark Emberton, Professor of Interventional Oncology at University College London, prostate cancer screening could be coming to a supermarket near you.

10-minute scans

Professor Emberton is in charge of a clinical study which he’s hoping will transform prostate cancer screening. The $6.5 million trial, which started in August of 2019, stalled in the spring because of covid, but is now back on track. His team is looking at scans that take only ten minutes, which could potentially be rolled out to the general population.

I sat down with Mark to hear about his work.

Prostate cancer screening difficulties

In the UK, there are only a few nationwide screening programs, including breast cancer for women and bowel cancer for men.1 Prostate cancer is now the most-commonly diagnosed cancer in England, but nationwide screening has proved elusive, as it has such a poor diagnostic record.2

Traditionally, tests start with a digital exam followed by a PSA blood test, neither of which are particularly accurate or trustworthy. Around 75% of men with high PSA levels don’t have cancer, but about 15% with normal PSA levels actually do.3,4 I should know: when I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, my PSA stood at just 5.03.

Read on.

When will the side effects go away?

Three years ago I had my first hormone jab. Now I’m going cold turkey. My last shot was three months ago, and the course of treatment is complete.

All good, but I want to know if and when the side effects of this hot flashin’, erection robbin’, mood swingin’, bone thinin’ son of a gun are going to disappear.

A big needle with a job to do

As most people reading this will know, Zoladex (my preferred hormonal cocktail) prevents the production of testosterone, which is something prostate cancer loves to feast on.

Zoladex is described as being “administered subcutaneously every 28 days into the anterior abdominal wall below the navel line using an aseptic technique under the supervision of a physician.”1

What Zoladex fails to mention is that it involves a spring-loaded instrument of torture which the Spanish Inquisition would have instantly co-opted as one of their toys, if only Big Pharma had existed in the 16th century. It’s a big needle with a job to do.

Read on

 

Zoom call with the grim reaper

Well of course it wasn’t with the grim reaper, death is always reluctant to take calls, but it was with a friend who before too long is booked in for a consultation with the scythe-wielding, black-cloaked spoilsport. I may be pushing the analogy a little far, but you could say the grim reaper was hovering in the background.

An honest conversation with a good friend

My friend, an artist who I’ve known for many years, isn’t sure how long he’s got but isn’t expecting to host a birthday party next year. At 88 he’s in pretty good spirits and has enjoyed a full and vigorous life. Make no mistake though, his departure will leave a big hole in the lives of many. Shakespeare has a line in Anthony and Cleopatra: “Make death proud to take us.” Death should be honoured to take this proud man. Read on.

Proton Beam Therapy: A Survivor’s Story

Proton beam therapy is a hot discussion topic in this community and when I received an interesting note from Vickie about her partner’s proton experience, I knew I wanted to dig in and find out more.

What is proton beam therapy?

In very simple terms proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses targeted beams of high-energy particles. It’s used to combat various forms of cancer particularly in children where cancer is located close to vital organs. The claims made for it are that it’s less likely to damage other organs and produces fewer side effects.

At first glance, it looks like a no-brainer, what could be better than a treatment that whacks the cancer and leaves the healthy organs intact?Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and the jury is out as to how effective proton therapy is at combatting prostate cancer. Read on…

Prostate Cancer: It’s A Walk In The Park

In some circles, there’s a sense that prostate cancer is easily treatable and frankly a bit of a walk in the park. Carl told me: The worst thing I hear when telling people I have prostate cancer is when they say: ‘Yes if you’re going to get cancer that’s the one you would choose’. Despite the many effective treatments and survival rates improving even a cursory glance at the relevant statistics should indicate that prostate cancer, like any form of cancer, goes about its business in a brutal manner.

A time to unite and spread awareness

You may have no interest in cancer, but unfortunately, cancer may have an interest in you. All of which brings us to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This year the theme is to elevate the voices of those who are living with it together with the voices of partners, families, and friends who are along on the no-joy ride. As ever the driver is to encourage men to get tested so doctors can catch the cancer before it spreads. Read on…