A: It is well known that the treatments used to kill cancer cells can also cause lasting and sometimes permanent side effects. Chemotherapy drugs can damage organs such as the liver, brain, lungs, and bone marrow. Radiation treatments can cause scar tissue in any area of the body that the radiation passes through. Both chemotherapy and radiation can cause a secondary cancer to occur decades later. The study you are referring to in the national press reported that women treated with radiation for breast cancer are more likely to develop heart problems later. But, the study only showed that normally 4 to 5 of every 100 women will develop a major cardiac problem by age 80, and radiation treatment would add just one more case. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, a candid discussion should be held with their doctor to review the side effects of their treatment options. The person will then need to decide if they would like to proceed based on the risk of treatment (side effects) versus the benefit (cure) of the treatment.
Q: What stage is a prostate cancer when during a prostatectomy (surgery to remove the prostate) it is found that the cancer has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes? How is this treated and what is the prognosis?
A: When staging prostate cancer, the doctor has to look at the extent of the disease in the prostate and at whether it has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. When a prostate cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes, it is labeled a Stage IV cancer. In the case where the prostate has been removed, the patient should then be referred to a radiation oncologist to discuss radiation therapy to the pelvis area where the lymph nodes are located. Even though the positive lymph nodes make this cancer a Stage IV, the survival rate is nearly 100% five years from diagnosis. The survival rate drops to 70-80% 10 years after diagnosis. In conclusion, most men with spread of the prostate cancer to nearby lymph nodes can live a very long time with the proper care and treatment.
Dr. Kris Gast with Fort Smith Radiation Oncology and Mr. Elton Hawkins of Hawkins Academy of Self Defense will be hosting an Open House and Exercise Event for local cancer survivors and patients currently undergoing treatment for cancer. The class will be held on Saturday, March 30, from 9:30-11:30am at Hawkins Academy of Self Defense on North 47th off Grand Ave. Dr. Gast and Mr. Hawkins will be introducing participants to all levels of exercise and self-defense during the open house. For questions or more information, please call Fort Smith Radiation Oncology at 479-648-1800.