How does it feel to be gifted a second life? “Simply fantastic!” Henning S. browses through the supermarket, placing bell peppers in his shopping basket as carefully as if he were picking flowers for his first date. The 72-year-old has prostate cancer.
Until a few months ago, the native Dane who lives in Southampton on the south coast of England could not even leave the house on his own, much less go shopping in the supermarket. The tumor has already formed metastases in Henning's bones, causing him severe pain and limiting his daily life immensely.
Almost any movement was difficult for the former fish farmer. His hip was particularly problematic. At the end he could not even lift his left arm without grimacing in pain. His days were only manageable with strong medication. “It was clear to me that I would soon be sitting in a wheelchair,” he says. “I sat from morning to evening in my armchair, powerless and bad-tempered, staring in front of me. I didn’t care about anything any more.”
But then the doctors at Southampton General Hospital suggested that he try a novel therapeutic option, an alternative to chemotherapy. Henning took the plunge and agreed to undergo the treatment. “That decision was going to completely change my life.”
“At the advanced stage of this disease, the therapeutic decision is concerned primarily with achieving targeted control of the bone metastases in order to improve the patients’ lives,” explains Dr. Robin Wegener, head of Medicine at Bayer Vital Deutschland. Approximately nine out of ten patients with castration-resistant, metastasizing prostate cancer develop bone metastases, and it is these bone metastases that are regarded as the main cause of an impaired quality of life and shortened life expectancy.
Henning received his next line of treatment following which the pain became noticeably less severe. “I still can’t believe how well the drugs worked. Even now, eight months after the end of the treatment, I still don’t need any painkillers.”
Tumor In The Prostate
The prostate gland is an organ roughly the size of a walnut. It produces the seminal fluid that transports the semen cells through the urethra. The growth and function of this organ are regulated by the male sex hormone testosterone. Without stimulation by this hormone, the gland remains underdeveloped and does not form any secretions.
When a malignant tumor grows in the prostate, it often does not cause any symptoms at the early stage. Later on however, patients can frequently experience severe, inexplicable pain. They find walking and climbing stairs difficult, suffer from sleep disorders and often lose control of their bladder.
Elevated concentrations of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), pain on urination and a strong urge to urinate are all warning signs of advanced prostate cancer. In some cases, patients have blood in their semen or urine.
The choice of treatment and the therapeutic options are determined primarily by the stage of the patient’s condition. If the diagnosis is made at an early stage, there are various options ranging from surgery through to radiation therapy and hormone therapy which can slow down or halt the growth of prostate tumors.
Once at an advanced stage, the condition can no longer be cured. This stage is known as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Most men at the CRPC stage have symptomatic bone metastases and suffer from pain, bone fractures or other skeletal problems such as spinal cord compression. The condition then often reduces the patient’s life expectancy.
In fact, it is the bone metastases that increase the risk of morbidity and mortality in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer.
He is wholeheartedly enjoying his new life and savoring his regained freedom. “I play football for hours with my grandson, go for long walks and work in the garden,” he says. “I do just about everything – except sit in my armchair!” Recently Henning S. has been traveling a lot, has visited friends in Portugal and his relatives in Denmark. He has been back home again for a few weeks now. “Since then everyone has been telling me how rested and recuperated I look – and I really am feeling well,” he says.