The last thing Kitsap Lake resident Bill Shipley wanted to hear two and a half years after being treated for head and neck cancer was that he had prostate cancer. But when a routine blood test detected a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of 7, he knew what he was in for.
“I was exercising every day and doing all the things I was supposed to be doing,” said Bill, a 64-year-old retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer. “And then bam…it happened again.”
Bill underwent a radical prostatectomy to remove his prostate, seminal vessels, and lymph nodes at Madigan Army Medical Center. But when a follow-up test revealed a rising PSA, he chose to have radiation treatment at Harrison Medical Center for its convenient location, advanced technology, and experienced physicians and staff.
“At Harrison, we use IMRT—the latest generation of radiation therapy—to treat prostate cancer,” says radiation oncologist Charles Springate, MD. “And while prostate cancer requires the longest course of treatment, it is also considered one of the easiest, with very little discomfort and few short-term side effects.”
Bill, who underwent 38 treatments in all, agrees. “The experience at Harrison was great, and the treatments were so much easier than I’d previously had. I was able to drive myself over, get radiation for five or 10 minutes, and get on my way. I was tired, but just six weeks after the treatments were done I began to feel like myself again.”
The road to recovery begins with prostate screening
Traditionally, men over 50 with an average risk of prostate cancer are screened using two early detection tests: the PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). Despite a controversial recommendation this year by an independent panel called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force against screening for prostate cancer, Bill had continued to get these annual prostate cancer screenings, and according to his oncologist Ronald Reimer, MD, with Harrison HealthPartners Bremerton Hematology and Oncology, testing saved his life.
“I’ve heard the term ‘watchful waiting’ in reference to prostate screening. That certainly wasn’t an option for me, and I urge other men to get their PSA tested. Dr. Reimer said if it wasn’t for the test, I would have been one of the ones who would have died.”
Instead, Bill is looking forward to getting back to a normal life with his wife, Kay. “For three years our lives revolved around doctor visits, hospitals, and treatments. As great as everyone was at Harrison, I’m looking forward to driving by the hospital instead of turning in!”