Fighting prostate cancer at 70
Lara Pickford-Gordon Wednesday, July 19 2006
‘Erectile function can be preserved’
TWO days after his 70th birthday Clarence St Clair (not his real name) rose from bed at midnight and went to pass water but things did not go as normal.
“I could not pee at all,” he said. St Clair went to his doctor the following day and was referred to a laboratory for tests.
The results came two days later. The doctor told him he had prostate problems. Although the news came as a surprise, St Clair had a family history of prostate cancer.
In an interview at Newsday’s Port-of-Spain office, he said his father died of prostate cancer in 1968 at the age of 77 years while his brother died in 2004 at the age of 76.
He said: “In the days my father got it in 1968 it was called stoppage of water. When my brother got sick and went to hospital, he died 15 days later. My brother was hospitalised in Grenada. I went straight to the hospital to see him.
That man bawl. He died the same night. He needed to have an operation but he did not want to. His entire belly got cancerous. The doctor said nothing could be done for him again.”
St Clair regrets not going for a Prostate Antigen Specific (PSA) test but said the only test he knew about was a rectal examination and the thought of a doctor “pushing a finger” to examine the prostate was too embarrassing for him to endure.
“That’s the mistake I made. I had my birthday and then this thing happen to me,” he said.
St Clair’s GP referred him to urologist Dr Fuad Khan who sent him for a Trans Rectal Ultrasound (TRUS) in San Juan. St Clair said a probe was inserted at different distances for photos to be taken.
It was an experience he will never forget. “I bawl. I am sure they hear me in the Croissee,” he said.
Based on the results of that test, Dr Khan referred St Clair to prostate cancer specialist, Dr Leon Lilas. More tests were done which confirmed St Clair had prostate cancer which required surgery.
In preparation for the procedure a catheter was inserted into his bladder to remove urine from his body.
“When he told me of the operation I was not even thinking. He explained everything took time with me. I had confidence in him.”
The operation was done on February 17 last year.
Dr Lilas said St Clair’s entire prostate had to be removed. This surgical procedure can take an average of three hours. Lilas said a small incision is made in the lower abdomen through which the prostate is removed and then the bladder is reconnected to the urethra, which takes urine from the bladder out of the body.
Lilas said the patient can leave hospital after two or three days. They are required to use a catheter to drain the urine for about two or three weeks. He said, “then it is removed and the patient has to do pelvic floor rehabilitation to gain control of their continence.”
St Clair will have to do PSA blood tests every six months for the rest of his life. Lilas said once the PSA is low then the cancer is under control.
The main risk factors from the surgery is loss of erection and incontinence. Lilas said with new techniques of surgery erectile function can be preserved while 95 percent of men regain continence.
St Clair said, “I feel much better. Stronger. I am advising men over 40 to please go and take a test before the start of pain. Lord have mercy.”