Prostate cancer patient urges people to “get checked” Mal Hutchinson knows how important it is to follow up with your doctor after cancer treatment.
Mal was 44 when he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011. He had surgery to remove his prostate, followed by regular check-ups for the first few years. Then life returned to its normal busy pace and the check-ups fell away.
“I’d been slack and thought it’s all gone, all the margins were clear after the surgery, so I left it for about a year. But then in April I had an inkling to go back and get it checked, and that’s when they found my PSA was going up again,” Mal said.
Mal came to see a Lifehouse Radiation Oncology specialist, who organised for Mal to have a PET scan which showed the cancer had returned. The scan was so precise it pin pointed the exact locations of the cancer cells so a specially targeted treatment plan was able to be created.
Mal said: “I had 34 radiotherapy sessions on the Novalis Linear Accelerator in the Darling Harbour room at Lifehouse. The staff there made an unpleasant experience quite bearable.
“I also had Lucrin injections which deprives the body of testosterone. As the body feeds on testosterone the injections mean the cancer is starved of nutrients. The Lucrin has meant I’ve put on a bit of weight and my memory has been a bit affected, but they’re just standard parts of the treatment.”
Since finishing radiotherapy, Mal has been concentrating on recovering. It wasn’t easy at first, but he knew what to expect and allowed himself time.
“I knew the week after I finished radiotherapy would be tough as everything was starting to heal. When I’d urinate I’d get an awkward pain, but that only lasted less than a week. I was really tired for four or five weeks afterward. I’d get half way through mowing the lawn then need to lie down. I don’t think people know how tired you get.
“It does take a long time to get your muscle strength back, and I’m about to start seeing an exercise physiologist so that should help.”
Like a lot of men who undergo treatment for prostate cancer, Mal was worried about incontinence, as well as the effect treatment might have on sexual function. He found attending a few different support groups helped.
“I remember bringing up the subject of sex after treatment at one of the groups. I’m only 48 now – a lot of the men in the groups were a lot older. When you’re 73 sex might not trouble you so much – one older man said he’d rather work on his car than have sex – but for younger men it’s a big concern. A lot of groups invite sex therapists to come in and talk, which is really useful.”
Now that Mal is many months down the road of recovery, his advice is: don’t look too much on the internet – a lot of info is out of date and treatments are advancing so quickly; and give yourself time to rest. Mostly importantly, says Mal: “See your doctor and get things checked.”