Patient stories / 27 Oct, 2020

Radiation therapy in rural Western Australia

Icon Writers

Robert shares his experience with advanced stereotactic radiation therapy for prostate cancer

73-year-old Toodyay local Robert Thompson was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019 after heading to the GP for his annual influenza vaccination. In a lucky turn of events, Robert saw a new doctor who ran a routine blood test and found his PSA levels were high at 7.5.

“After a month of monitoring and another PSA test, I was referred to a urologist who did some biopsies straight away. Only one reading out of 20 was classified as an active cancer that had the potential to spread. I was a little bit shocked in the beginning, but my urologist was confident that my cancer hadn’t spread yet and that a few doses of radiation would fix me up,” Robert said.

As Robert’s cancer was very small and localised in his prostate, he was able to receive stereotactic radiation therapy treatment at Icon Cancer Centre Midland. Stereotactic radiation therapy delivers high doses of radiation precisely to the prostate ensuring safe and effective treatment directly to the tumour, while minimising radiation dose to surrounding healthy organs and tissue.

Robert says the thought of receiving highly-accurate treatment to help minimise the risk of side effects was very reassuring.

“When we were told about all the different treatments for prostate cancer, the outcomes were really depressing and just about everything had side effects. Thankfully, with this treatment the side effects were really manageable. I had no hesitation. To me, this is the best option available.”

Stereotactic radiation therapy reduces the overall treatment time to one and a half weeks, delivering high doses of radiation in less than 15 minutes, and monitors prostate motion in real-time using small gold markers inserted into the prostate to ensure the radiation is delivered with absolute accuracy.

For many rural cancer patients, accessing treatment can be emotionally and physically draining. By receiving five sessions of this shorter course radiation therapy treatment on his prostate, Robert was also able to save more than 40 hours and 2 900km in travel and had the choice of staying in the comfort of his own home with his family, rather than in other accommodation options.

“Living out in the country, I jumped at the chance to receive just five highly-targeted doses of radiation compared to low dose radiation therapy treatment over five weeks. Without this option I would have had to stay in Perth each week; it would have been too hard to leave home for that length of time. Instead it was just an hour drive each way and we were home again in the early afternoon, which meant we could potter around the house. I feel very lucky that I was able to receive this treatment at Icon.”

The most difficult part of treatment for Robert was the preparation of ‘empty bowel, full bladder’ to ensure his prostate was in the same position every day for treatment.

“I was always worried during the drive to the centre since there is nowhere to stop on the way. It did take a while to get the procedure down pat, but after that everything became fairly simple. I still drink the cranberry juice every day, wonderful thing!”

The experience was also made easier through the support of his care team at Icon Midland. He says the small moments along the way, such as choosing his own music to listen to while receiving radiation, helped him get through treatment.

“It was quite handy to have music play while you’re being treated and watching the machine go round. I’m an old rocker, so the staff would play Chuck Berry or Roy Orbison. I can’t talk more highly about the team; they definitely understand what you’re going through and keep you calm. Nothing is too hard for them. They gave me the confidence that everything was going to be okay.”

“One of the best parts was ringing the bell on the last day to mark the end of my treatment. It was a great relief to know I was walking out of there for good!”

They look forward to continuing to travel in their caravan and spending time in the sunshine with cherished activities such as kayaking and bike riding.

Stereotactic radiation therapy for primary prostate cancer is available at Icon Cancer Centre Midland and Icon Cancer Centre Greenslopes.

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