Chuck Mueller proudly calls Wisconsin home. Nonetheless, he and his wife Sandy like to hit the road as often as they can.
“We have wheels,” Chuck says, referring to his Motorhome. “We want to be mobile.” But when Chuck was diagnosed with prostate cancer, travel plans were forced to take a back seat.
“Oh, you know how it is, I go for my annual physical every five years,” he jokes. But during one of his routine physicals, Chuck’s doctor noticed an elevated Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA, essentially a protein produced by the prostate. A biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“I told them I wanted a booth review, like in football,” he says half-jokingly. But, 72-year-old Chuck admits, “When you get diagnosed with cancer, your life flashes before you. You realize that you are human.”
Chuck was given a long list of treatment options and said radiation coupled with hormone therapy called Lupron sounded like the best route for him. He was referred to Dr. Rakesh Patel*, a Radiation Oncologist at University of Wisconsin, Hospital and Clinics, in Madison. Dr. Patel began treatment with a shot of Lupron two months prior to beginning the course of the TomoTherapy® System radiation treatment.
“Chuck was a good candidate for treatment on the Hi·Art® system because the prostate is in a challenging location,” said Dr. Patel. “With TomoTherapy, we can deliver radiation helically, treating both the prostate and pelvic lymph nodes concurrently while minimizing radiation dose to the small bowel and rectum.”
Chuck received 28 fractions of radiation, which meant that he returned to UW Hospital and Clinics every Monday through Friday for about 6 weeks. Each treatment fraction lasted approximately 30 minutes, from entering the treatment room to leaving.
Dr. Patel says the daily CTrue™ image, essentially a CT scan taken just prior to each radiation treatment, was used to verify the location of the prostate and normal structures to be sure the treatment would be as accurate as possible each time.
“The daily CTrue image gives us a tremendous advantage because the prostate is often in a different location from day to day, so we can shift the entire plan to address the target. It’s because of the conformal nature of TomoTherapy that we can treat more precisely. The nature of the prostate treatment area is harder to treat on other machines because you do not have this assurance.”
In fact, it’s this daily assurance that Dr. Patel was treating exactly what he saw that caused Chuck’s treatment course to be shorter than if he had been treated on a different radiation delivery machine. “Because we are using TomoTherapy and are more confident in our targeting, it allows us to give a higher dose of radiation in a shorter period of time. Without this targeting capability, Chuck’s treatment would have taken about two more weeks.”
Dr. Patel says that side effects are also minimized thanks to the conformal nature of TomoTherapy treatments. “In general, patients receiving any kind of radiation to the pelvis might experience nausea and diarrhea. With TomoTherapy, we’re able to limit the amount of radiation to the small intestine and bowel so we see fewer incidences of major side effects,” said Dr. Patel.
Chuck says that while he did experience some mild side effects including diarrhea and more frequent urination, he did not have any pain during treatment. “My wife said she didn’t notice that treatments slowed me down at all,” laughed Chuck.
Now about 8 months post-treatment, Chuck says that the mild side effects disappeared some time ago. With a clean bill of health (Chuck’s PSA at diagnosis was 17; currently it’s 0**), he’s grateful to Dr. Patel and to the treatments made possible by the Hi·Art system. “TomoTherapy is the only way to go,” he says matter-of-factly.
With a renewed sense of freedom, Chuck and Sandy have taken up traveling once again. For their next trip, they’ll drive down to Florida, then embark on a truly off-roads adventure.
“We’re treating the whole family to a cruise. All three of our kids and their spouses, plus seven grandchildren,” Chuck says with a grin. “It will be quite a trip. We’re looking forward to it.”
*Dr. Rakesh Patel is Assistant Professor of Human Oncology with the University of Wisconsin Medical School Faculty. He carries out treatments at UW Hospital & Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin.
**Chuck’s follow-up regime includes check ups every three to six months and four shots of Lupron each year.