The 79-year-old Halifax man has lived with metastatic prostate cancer for the past 19 years.
“It hasn’t had a big impact on the way I live my life,” he said. “My wife has periodically said to me, ‘I can hardly believe you’re sick.’”
But he is sick, and according to his latest prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, his PSA count — an indicator of prostate cancer — is increasing.
“I think it’s only in the last six or eight months that it’s jumped a bit, and now it’s jumping again,” Carson said.
His enlarged prostate was first detected back in 2003, and he subsequently had a prostatectomy, a procedure to remove part or all of the prostate gland. But cancer cells stayed behind and spread, or metastasized. He’s had hormone therapy, radiation, and most recently, drug treatment to keep the cancer spread at bay.
“And (those measures) have been working for the last number of years, but they seem to have tapered off in their effect,” he told Global News.
“Unfortunately, my cancer has metastasized on my spine and there is no procedure to operate and remove part of my spine.”
“Eventually the cancer cells learn to live under the influence of those treatments and they start to grow again,” said Dr. Ricardo Rendon, a urologic oncologist and Dalhousie University professor in the department of urology.
Usually when the prostate cancer advances through all the treatments, there’s not much more doctors can offer, he said.
That is, until now.
“We have a new treatment that is brand new and available to our patients who had nothing else to receive when their disease was progressing,” he said.
Pluvicto was approved in Canada just last month, and it will allow doctors, for the first time, to target and treat specific cancer cells.
“So instead of being a shotgun approach to treating cancer, it’s a missile directly to the prostate cancer cells,” Rendon said.
This targeted approach will not only help patients live longer and with a much better quality of life, he said, but it will also produce fewer of the side effects that come with other treatments.
“It is very difficult talking to a patient telling them that we have nothing else to offer for the disease … So it is amazing to be able to off this to these patients,” Rendon said.
Only four per cent of advanced prostate cancer cases are preventable, based on currently-known risk factors, which is why advancements in prostate cancer treatment are critical, Rendon said.
“Since 2004, we have about six to eight new drugs approved, thanks to hundreds of clinical trials and many thousands of patients who have gone through this,” he said. “In these 15 years, we have been able to almost triple the life expectancy of patients with advanced prostate cancer.”
The ongoing research is not lost on Carson, who understands that this new drug may be his last treatment option.
“Dr. Rendon hasn’t said ‘we can either put you in the trial or try drug B,’ so I’m not sure what else is out there for me,” said Carson.
“The idea that this radioactive drug will seek out the prostate cancer cells and attach to them and radiate just them — that sounds brilliant to me, and hopefully it will work.”
Children’s hospital in Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries
A children’s hospital in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador is cancelling some surgeries and appointments starting Monday.
Health officials say it’s due to a high level of respiratory illness.
It is unclear how many surgeries and appointments at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. John‘s will be affected.
Residents who are not experiencing a medical emergency are being asked to avoid visiting an emergency department.
Older adults amongst the most susceptible to RSV
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The risk of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV, typically flies under the radar when it comes to older adults.
With 10 times the amount of older adults being hospitalized for RSV than in previous years, understanding the risk is important for those who are more susceptible.
“RSV in older adults starts out with the same symptoms as younger adults. With common cold-like symptoms- nasal congestion, sniffles, low-grade temperature, sore throat, dry cough, tiredness. These symptoms will last for a few days,” Mary Derby, Nurse Manager at Pima County Health Department explained.
“However, an older adult or an adult with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease- they can experience more serious symptoms, such as getting a high fever, dehydration, and real difficulty breathing.”
Derby says if these symptoms lead to extreme chest pain, loss of color in the face, or struggle to breathe- seek medical attention immediately.
It is also important for those assisting an older adult to be aware of the risk imposed on those more susceptible.
“If you’re caring for older adults, please wash your hands frequently. Watch for your own symptoms and stay away if you’re experiencing symptoms. Consider wearing a mask to protect that older adult, because these older adults do need that protection… Take it seriously,” Derby emphasized.
Upward 6,000 to 10,000 older adults die each year from RSV.
As we make our way through the holidays, be sure to stay up to date with COVID-19 and Influenza vaccines, stay home if you are not feeling well, wash your hands often and for those at higher risk, wear a fitted mask around others.
AIDS day walk in North Battleford aims to `banish that stigma’
By Julia Peterson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On World AIDS Day, advocates in the Battlefords gathered to raise awareness about how the virus affects people in their community, and how people can get help and treatment, if they need it.
“HIV is completely preventable in today’s society, with all the advances in medication,” said Battle River Treaty 6 Health Centre’s HIV project coordinator, Cymric Leask. “But due to a lot of intersecting factors, especially due to COVID in the past couple of years, our HIV numbers have skyrocketed.”
In 2021, more than 200 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the province, even while testing, treatment and outreach were reduced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saskatchewan has the highest rate of new HIV infections in Canada, and has had the highest annual rate in the country for more than a decade.
The proportion of new HIV cases in rural areas is rising, too.
“Here up north, there are such large barriers to access to care,” said Leask. “We do have some great resources here in North Battleford but it’s still very hard to access the proper care for HIV.”
For example, getting started on HIV medication requires a visit with a communicable disease doctor, but there is no communicable disease doctor based in the Battlefords. Instead, that doctor visits the community only once every four months.
Another barrier Leask has found is that many people still have an outdated understanding of what HIV is, who is at risk and how treatment works.
“Especially here in rural areas, it’s stigmatized as something that only affects gay or bisexual men, men who have sex with men,” Leask said.
Today in Saskatchewan, men and women are diagnosed with HIV at almost equal rates, and two thirds of new cases are passed through injection drug use.
Treatments are much easier to manage than they used to be; some only involve taking one pill a day.
But the enduring stigma around HIV makes it harder for people to find community and support.
“People don’t talk about it,” said Jackie Kennedy, executive director of the Battlefords Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. “I think they’re afraid to. A lot of people don’t disclose that information (about their HIV status) because they are afraid to be judged.”
As more people continue to be diagnosed with HIV in Saskatchewan every year, groups and organizations in the Battlefords are working hard to make it easier for people to get testing, treatment, information and harm reduction supplies.
“We want to banish that stigma of how it used to be,” said Leask. “It’s not like that anymore.”
Julia Peterson is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE STARPHOENIX
The LJI program is federally funded.
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