Commentary: A battle against prostate cancer |

Commentary: A battle against prostate cancer

Guy W. Farmer

I just returned from Southern California, where I underwent two months’ worth of highly targeted proton radiation therapy for prostate cancer at the Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC). My prognosis is very positive and I’m glad to be home.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer last fall, I opted for the LLUMC proton program for several reasons. It’s non-invasive, painless and it kills cancer cells without producing harmful side effects like incontinence and impotence. In addition, LLUMC has an excellent track record for curing prostate cancer.

The Loma Linda medical facility, which is owned and operated by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, pioneered proton therapy in the early 1990s after building a

$40 million proton accelerator/synchrotron in cooperation with the Energy Department’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Although the treatment was experimental early on, it has long since gone mainstream, and most costs are now covered by Medicare and/or private medical insurance plans. In my case, it’s a combination of both.

Several more proton accelerators are now in operation or under construction around the country, including one at the nation’s leading cancer research facility, the M.D. Anderson Center in Houston, Texas. Even so, many urologists remain uninformed about the proton treatment option for prostate cancer and continue to recommend surgery to remove the prostate as the “gold standard” of treatment options.

Fortunately, my urologist, Dr. Jim Cunningham, knew about the Loma Linda protons and encouraged me to explore that option as one of several possible treatments, including cryosurgery, radioactive seeds and targeted conventional (photon) radiation, all of which are available in Northern Nevada.

I chose Loma Linda, however, after talking with two local friends who had successfully undergone treatment there: Dr. Arden Heffernan, a dentist and Civil Air Patrol pilot, and Lyon County District Judge Bill Rogers, both of whom strongly endorse proton therapy and are doing well several years after treatment.

Massachusetts businessman Robert J. Marckini, who authored the proton therapy “bible” – “You Can Beat Prostate Cancer” – interviewed 56 former proton patients and discovered that “PSAs (the main prostate cancer indicator) were dramatically reduced” over time and side effects were minimal in all cases. Moreover, according to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for men whose cancer was confined to the prostate at diagnosis (as mine was) is 100 percent.”

In conclusion, I urge my male readers to get PSA checks and if and when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer to consider proton therapy at Loma Linda. I did and it gave me a new lease on life.

• Political columnist Guy W. Farmer returned to Carson last Wednesday.