I was diagnosed with prostatitis and BPH (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia) in 2001, but since my PSA level remained around 1.5 for the next seven years, my primary care physician always assumed it was simply an enlarged prostate she was feeling via the DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) at my annual physical.
In September 2008 I experienced a bout of hematuria (blood in the urine), which led to an appointment with a urologist, which led to a biopsy and cystoscopy in late 2008. The biopsy revealed 11 cancerous cores (out of 12 samples) and a Gleason grading of 4+4=8, i.e., aggressive PCa. My PSA was still 1.5.
Upon finding a lesion in my urethra via cystoscopy, my urologist subsequently performed a urethral biopsy, which revealed (to quote my urologist),"extensive cancer," staging me as T4N0M0
In the memorable words of the same doctor, "You're definitely not a candidate for surgery--and I'm a surgeon" since the cancer was very close to my urethral sphincter. At the time of diagnosis he prescribed Casodex, an anti-androgen at triple the normal dose (150 mg/day), which I stayed on for two months, and resulted in significant shrinkage of my prostate. In March 2009, we ended the Casodex, and I received a one-year implanted dose of Vantas, a LHRH agonist, aka androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). At that time I was also diagnosed with osteopenia, a precursor to full-blown osteoporosis, so I enjoyed three years of quarterly Zometa infusions.
I began Radiation therapy (RT) in April, 2009, which consisted of 25 sessions of intensity-modulated RT (IMRT) pus 17 sessions of image-guided RT (IGRT), for a total of 79 Grays of radiation. The Vantas did not decrease my testosterone sufficiently, so I went back on Casodex. In March 2010, I became the first patient in my doc's practice to start on Firmagon, which was quite effective and I continued with its monthly injections for 2 more years. My last monthly injection was February 2012.
The very good news is that my PSA became undetectable in November 2009, and it has remained undetectable ever since. (Most recent test: February 2016). The bad news is that even though I had my last Firmagon shot four years ago, I have also remained castrate ever since. So much for a "hormone holiday." My testosterone seems to have permanently left the station. Or in the memorable words of my doc, "It looks like your pituitary-hypothalamic axis is trashed." I have fewer hot flashes, but have night sweats almost every night. Needless to say, my libido has also left the station, but my wife has been amazingly understanding and we've found other ways to be intimate.
Since the cancer invaded my urethra, radiation directed there has resulted in a stricture, which needs to be treated via balloon cystoscopy every year or so. I will soon be learning how to do self-catherization, not because I'm incontinent but because I have to keep the pipe open. But it's really a minor tradeoff given the aggressiveness of my cancer