Twelve years ago, Syd Ball's local urologist told him that prostate-removal surgery and radiation therapy were his only options to treat his early stage prostate cancer. After a second opinion from a urologic oncologist at Johns Hopkins University, Syd participated in active surveillance to avoid the serious side effects associated with treating prostate cancer.
When I was diagnosed, it did shake me up. Once I talked to the doctor, and got the statistics about my chances, then I felt there was no question about what to do. Being an engineer, if you give me the risk statistics on it, I'll tend to believe that the best course of action is based on what my chances are.
At the time of his diagnosis, his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test was 9.6. (A level below 4.0 used to be considered normal, but does not always rule out cancer.)Throughout his active surveillance program, his PSA tests haven't registered much above a 4.0 to 5.0 range and biopsies showed no progression. Though Ball agreed to his doctor's recommendation to undergo active surveillance, many of his peers given a prostate cancer diagnosis do not.
A lot of my friends, when they get the diagnosis, they can't stand the idea of the cancer hanging around. But many have had bad luck from radiation and surgeries for prostate cancer. If they only had waited, they might have had that many more years without having to do something drastic.
Today, Syd Ball, at 76, continues to work part-time and plays squash four times a week.