Fewer Side Effects Keep Farmer on His Tractor During Cancer Treatment

Author: Leslie Toldo

Last year, when Ed Pincik’s prostate specific antigen (PSA) test came back higher than the year before, his doctor ordered a biopsy.  It wasn’t Ed’s first prostate biopsy.

“I had three or four of them in the past and they always came back negative,” Ed said. “I was kind of hoping it would come back negative again.”

Four samples from Ed’s biopsy came back positive.

“My doctor suggested having my prostate removed,” Ed said. “When they checked me out at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint, they found the cancer had not spread. They suggested I explore other treatment options, as well.”

Ed met with radiation oncologist Dr. Christian Hyde, who suggested that Ed consider radiation treatments with proton therapy.

“Dr. Hyde was great and took the time to answer my questions,” Ed said. “Proton therapy sounded great to me because it was less invasive and had a lower risk of side effects than having my prostate removed.”

Protons also come with a lower risk of side effects than traditional radiation therapy.  Protons travel directly to the tumor, taking on its shape and size.  They deliver the radiation and stop at the tumor.  X-rays, or traditional radiation therapy, deliver radiation to the tumor, then keep going through the body before exiting, exposing healthy tissue and organs beyond the tumor to potentially damaging radiation.

“Both treatments effectively kill cancer cells but, because protons stop at the tumor and lymph nodes, there is less risk of damage to the small bowel, colon, and bladder for patients who need radiation to the prostate and lymph nodes,” said Dr. Hyde. 

Ed began treatments at the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, one of fewer than 50 centers offering the treatment in the United States.

“We are lucky to have this option available for the patients we treat,” said Dr. Hyde. “Because we don’t radiate as much of the body with protons, we can offer our patients a better quality of life during their treatments.”

Other than a little fatigue, Ed said his side effects were minor.  In fact, he was even able to keep up with his strenuous work as a farmer while going through weeks of daily treatments.

“I went in early in the morning, in the fall, when I was harvesting,” Ed said. “I would come home afterward and work, sometimes until midnight or later.”

Having prostate cancer gave Ed a lot of perspective. While it is not easy to go through, Ed says the right attitude will help you fight for your life.

“It’s something you’ve got to deal with every day, but you can get through it,” Ed said. “The stress, you just can’t let it get to you.”

To learn more about proton therapy or to schedule a consultation, visit mclaren.org/protontherapy.