Source: Mary Alford, The News-Enterprise
As he walked into a small break room in the basement of Hardin Memorial Hospital joking and with a little pep in this step, Tony Jayjock gave no hint that he’s fighting a battle inside himself.
The 70-year-old Elizabethtown resident was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April and began treatment this month.
When Jayjock discovered he had prostate cancer, he said he was filled with disbelief. Running at least one mile three days a week, he said he always thought of himself as “quite the healthy older fellow.”
Jayjock, who retired as a lieutenant general from the U.S. Army, never expected he would have prostate cancer, especially considering he hadn’t exhibited any noticeable symptoms.
“What is interesting — I didn’t even know this until I was diagnosed — one in four men get prostate cancer,” he said. “A lot of them just forgo treatment. It is not a death sentence, but it is a very common ailment and it’s a problem that many don’t go in for their annual checkup.”
Avoiding annual checkups can lead to catching the cancer at a later, more-critical stage.
Jayjock said he probably has been in for an annual checkup three times in the last five years. He said his daughter, who is a dentist, always stresses the importance of annual checkups.
“She’s a health professional and encourages people to do things and she loves her dad,” he said, smiling. “One thing I did well was raise my kids. They are good kids.”
After thorough research into what sort of treatment he would like to seek, Jayjock chose to use the SpaceOAR System developed by Augmenix, a medical technology company that manufactures and sells absorbable hydrogels that separate and protect organs at risk during radiotherapy.
He is in the first group of patients of Hardin Memorial Hospital to receive the SpaceOAR hydrogel, a new treatment in Kentucky pioneered by Dr. Richard Seither, a radiation oncologist at HMH. The SpaceOAR hydrogel is intended to allow patients to have shorter treatment schedules and fewer side effects.
“Here is how I look at it, radiation has its problems or potential complications and so does surgery,” Seither said. “So when I am talking to a patient about prostate cancer, I generally tell them radiation has more rectal problems and surgery has more urinary problems. Well, now we have a mechanism to remedy the rectal problems.”
Prior to choosing SpaceOAR hydrogel, Jayjock considered multiple other procedures including the use of a high-intensity focused ultrasound to destroy cancerous prostate tissue and cryotherapy, which involves freezing the cancer cells. Both of those are offered in Louisville, he said.
The hydrogel is an absorbable prostate-rectum spacer that reduces rectal injury during prostate radiotherapy.
Jayjock said radiotherapy associated with the treatment of prostate cancer can cause unintended radiation injury to adjacent healthy tissue, such as the rectum. This injury can lead to a range of bowel, urinary and sexual symptoms that can affect patient health and quality of life during treatment and for years afterward.
The SpaceOAR hydrogel is intended to temporarily position the anterior rectal wall away from the prostate during radiotherapy. Seither said in creating this space, the hydrogel can reduce the radiation dose delivered. The hydrogel is injected as a liquid into the area between the prostate and rectum, so it pushes them apart and then solidifies into a soft hydrogel. The hydrogel remains stable for three months during radiation therapy then liquefies and is absorbed completely by the body.
In reading about the SpaceOAR hydrogel and speaking with Seither, Jayjock said he decided it was the avenue toward being cured he wanted to take.
“It sounded like a reasonable approach to something I know nothing about,” Jayjock said.
Being able to obtain this treatment without traveling far from home was an added bonus.
Although there are some risks involved, Jayjock, who just started his radiation therapy, said he has yet to experience any side effects. Some of the most common side effects he was warned of are nausea, constipation, fatigue and diarrhea.
Jayjock, who has a family history of cancer, said the plan is for him to go to HMH five days a week for 30 days for his radiotherapy. That is 10 days less than if he had not opted for the SpaceOAR hydrogel, which allows a higher dosage of radiation to be administered during each visit. He said getting the hydrogel implanted was not too bad.
“What I went through is essentially uncomfortable. There was a little discomfort afterward after they put the spacer in,” he said.
Markers are placed on the prostate so doctors can tell where it is located.
“Prostates move every day,” Seither said, noting when a man urinates and has a bowel movement depends on where their prostate is that day. “So we put markers in their prostate, and every day before we shoot radiation in them, we take an X-ray and see where the markers are. … We adjust to it.”
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is more common in older men with about six in 10 cases diagnosed in men age 65 or older. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.
The site also said prostate cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. About one man in 39 will die of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed do not die from it. Seither said an average man has about a 20 percent chance of dying with prostate cancer, considerably lower than the 90 to 95 percent with lung or pancreatic cancer.
Jayjock is optimistic about the treatment.
“Hopefully, it cures the problem and I can live the rest of my life,” he said.
Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or email@example.com.