Call for More Information
When he started experiencing urination issues in 2019, Reggie’s provider prescribed him medication and ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to determine if the problem may be more serious. His PSA levels were slightly high but not too concerning. They ordered a follow-up test in the subsequent months, which revealed that Reggie’s PSA levels were climbing. Upon a recommendation from his provider, Reggie got a biopsy which confirmed he had prostate cancer. After his diagnosis, Reggie enrolled in an active surveillance program to monitor the progression of the cancer. This worked well for him until his cancer started progressing, and it was time to intervene.
Reggie researched options for treatment and spoke with Dr. Emily Weg at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center – Proton Therapy for her opinion. “She was so patient and answered all my questions,” Reggie recalled. “With so many different types of treatment, I wasn’t sure which one was right for me. She provided straightforward and thoughtful recommendations on what would work best for my needs.”
Besides his medical history, another factor that had to be considered was Reggie’s racial background. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Result (SEER) national cancer registry shows that Black men exhibit a 60-70% higher rate of prostate cancer incidence and 100-120% increased rate of cancer-specific mortality compared to White men in the United States.
The disparity is multifactorial and reflects differences in biology, environmental, social, and health system factors. Many researchers within Fred Hutch are working to better understand these complex factors to address them more systematically and effectively. On a day-to-day level, providers like Dr. Weg can play their small part in making sure all patients are educated about their risk of prostate cancer and all their treatment options, thus ensuring equal access to care within the institution.
Dr. Weg and Reggie had an “instantaneous” connection. The two discovered that they were both from the same town in New Jersey and quickly bonded over their shared experiences. “When we realized we were from the same area, it opened up the floodgates of conversation and I just felt really comfortable,” Reggie said. “I think we view life in the same ways, always looking for the silver-lining.”
With Reggie’s history of urinary issues, Dr. Weg said there were specific anatomical considerations that made protons potentially beneficial for him. For Reggie, the potential benefit of proton therapy to minimize long-term side effects was most appealing. After getting to know Reggie and his goals for treatment, his care team ultimately treated him with a combination of prostate-directed proton radiation and six months of testosterone-lowering medication intended to help reduce the risk of the cancer returning or progressing.
“That's the beauty of prostate cancer care - the landscape of available treatment strategies is vast and overwhelming,” Dr. Weg said. “Once we get to the know patients, we can try to guide them toward the strategy that is the best fit for them as individuals.”
Reggie underwent a longer course of treatment compared to most prostate cancer patients as a gentler approach to accommodate his urinary issues. Most prostate cancer patients typically receive four to five weeks of treatment, but Reggie completed nine weeks at a smaller dosage rate.
When asked about his proton treatment, Reggie had nothing but positive things to say. “My friend is currently receiving proton therapy treatment at Fred Hutch, and he was the one who said I should look into it! He sent me a photo of my face on the prostate cancer pamphlet, and we laughed about it. It feels so good to know that I’m helping other people who may be going through what I was going through years ago. I can only say how great everything was in the end and I’m so glad I found a doctor who was willing to work so closely with me to choose what was best.”
Reggie experienced very few side effects and was dedicated to staying active to help strengthen his body and help alleviate some of the aches he had during treatment. Reggie recently started working part-time as a car salesman after being retired for 23 years, which helps keep him on his feet and remain active in his day-to-day life. He continues to check his PSA levels every six months and has had no issues since completing his treatment.
Reggie encourages others looking into cancer treatment to trust their gut. Research is important to finding the best treatment available for every situation, but he recommends others to “do what feels right”. “Comfort was the number one factor in my decision,” advises Reggie, “It was amazing to me that I met a wonderful doctor like Dr. Weg to guide me through it and I think that made my overall experience all the better.”
Dr. Weg advises men over the age of 40, specifically Black men, to get screened if they are concerned. “Early diagnosis is important,” said Dr. Weg. “Knowing early helps us monitor the patient’s individual case and allows us access to all types of treatment options for every unique situation.”
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