While most people were considering holiday plans and gift-giving, Peter Taaffe and his wife Carol found themselves considering Peter’s options for treating prostate cancer during the holidays a few years ago.
Rising PSA levels
Diagnosed in November 2006, Peter, then 59, was an active golfer who spent time between homes in two cities, enjoyed hitting the gym daily, traveling and spending time with his adult sons and grandchildren. By all accounts, he was in great health, but his slowly rising PSA levels over the years kept him alert to the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, and he began considering the options available for prostate cancer treatment before his diagnosis. In fact, one such option stuck out in his mind.
“I’d heard information about a different treatment for prostate cancer available at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center on a radio program on the way to work every day for about a week,” he said. “And I thought, ‘if I’m ever diagnosed with prostate cancer, that’s something I should look into.’”
Being prepared early on
Unfortunately, his diagnosis came sooner, rather than later. But proactively equipping himself with information before his diagnosis helped guide him and his wife when the time came to make decisions about his treatment.
Peter researched a number of options, reviewing clinical studies and outcomes for various forms of radiation therapy and surgery. Also in his arsenal of information was his long-time best friend, a urologist, with whom he could candidly discuss risks and options for his treatment.
Deciding on proton therapy treatment
While surgery and radiation therapy provide similar outcomes for early-stage prostate cancer, radiation therapy is the primary option for both localized and locally advanced prostate cancer. Proton therapy is a powerful treatment for prostate cancer that precisely targets even the most difficult to treat and reach tumors, often allowing higher doses of radiation to be delivered to the prostate without complications.
“I found that proton therapy was as effective as the other forms of available treatment, if not better,” Peter said. “And what ultimately attracted me to it was there were very few side effects. MD Anderson’s reputation was also a factor. I knew with the history of proton therapy and with MD Anderson’s reputation that this type of treatment was a viable option for me.”
The treatment regimen was also an accommodating option that allowed Peter, a practicing certified public accountant (CPA) who owns an accounting firm, to receive treatment in the mornings and report to his office for work shortly afterward. He had 42 treatments over the course of eight weeks.
During Peter’s care and treatment at MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, the staff left a lasting impression: “Everyone from the doctors to the technicians was superb,” he said. But it was the residual benefit of the support network that most surprised him.
Building upon the ProtonPal camaraderie
“There’s a lot of camaraderie among the men who are going through this with you,” Peter recalled. “Little did I know that the main side effect of the decision to have proton therapy would be meeting some of the most wonderful people, both working at the center, as well as the fellow patients and their families. It was a positive experience I surely didn’t anticipate.”
Peter helped start the ProtonPals patient support group and website, and still enjoys attending events and keeping up with the friends he met along his journey.
"I knew with the history of proton therapy and with MD Anderson's reputation that this type of treatment was a viable option for me."
Prostate cancer survivor