Prostate cancer patient
When Richard Blackmore, a retired chartered engineer, who lives in Leicestershire, noticed he needed to ‘spend a penny’ more often than usual he went to see his GP. He had blood tests and was referred for a biopsy which revealed he had prostate cancer. Richard was not covered by private medical insurance, but was so keen to have daily image guided and intensity modulated radiotherapy, that he joined a growing number of non-insured patients who are opting to pay for their treatment.
Even when I had my symptoms, I didn’t consider it was cancer so being diagnosed was a real shock. I immediately started finding out more about the disease, and the treatments available.
My cancer was not aggressive which means it was considered unlikely to develop fast or spread. It was recommended I was put on ‘active surveillance’ which involved seeing my urologist every six months and having a PSA test every three to six months. For a year and a half my PSA fluctuated between 13 and 19, but then shot up to 23.
I went for an MRI and a bone scan which thankfully showed that the tumour was still contained within the prostate, but was showing signs that it was trying to get out. I was advised I needed radiation treatment and saw an NHS oncologist.
I’d been doing a great deal of research and was interested to read about the latest generation of radiotherapy machines that could deliver image guided (IGRT) and intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). This type of radiation treatment is particularly good for prostate cancer because the rectum and bladder are both so close to the affected area. I was so convinced of the benefits of IGRT and IMRT, I was determined to have it, and decided to pay to go privately.
After meeting the team at GenesisCare in Little Aston, and finding out more about the kit, I knew I wanted my treatment there and asked my GP to re-refer me.
I had a CT planning scan after which the team of physicists and dosimetrists worked with my new oncologist, Dr Dan Ford, and prepared a treatment map. I had three small tattoos on my lower stomach and thighs which were then used to help position me correctly with the lasers on the radiation machine prior to each treatment session.
I began seven and a half weeks of daily radiation treatment and spent the summer travelling the daily 80-mile round-trip to Little Aston – clocking up 3,000 miles in total. While the journey itself wasn’t an issue, I did have to present myself with a full bladder, so needed to arrive 20 minutes early to give myself time to drink 400ml of water and have a cup of coffee.
Once in the treatment room, I lay on the flat glossy black carbon-fibre platen that was elevated and positioned within the radiation machine. There were always two radiographers working together. If they were not satisfied that my bladder was full and rectum empty of gas they would come and get me and, if necessary, I’d have to go for a walk and then try again.”
Each actual treatment session lasted around 15 to 20 minutes - during which time the high-energy photon beam rotated into seven different positions delivering a total of 50 precisely targeted bursts of radiation.
I had to keep extremely still which was helped by being able to listen to my MP3 player on the room’s sound system, and knowing that the radiographers were monitoring me closely via a screen.
I got to know and like all the staff who were incredibly welcoming, courteous and, above all, competent. They were always completely unflustered – even when on a couple of occasions I needed to stop my treatment half way through because I couldn’t hold on any longer, and a radiographer dashed in with a pee-bottle!
I rather enjoyed going to see them every day, and it was a bit of a wrench having to say goodbye after the last treatment. I think I could not have been better looked after, and I am sure that everything that could be done to make the treatment successful has been done to the best of everyone’s ability.
I was determined to have this treatment, and believe it was money well-spent. The after-effects have been virtually nil meaning that I am now able to get on with and enjoy my life.