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Patient with prostate cancer undergoes innovative treatment

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

Patient with prostate cancer undergoes innovative treatment

This month is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a diagnosis that one in eight men will receive in their lifetime. This is one patient’s story about his diagnosis and a unique treatment offered by IU Health.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist, tfender1@iuhealth.org

He started seeing a urologist about six years ago. At the time, John Barnard felt fine but when his doctor discovered elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), he knew it was prudent to continue with regular check ups.

Retired from Eli Lilly and Company, Barnard spent his career working in finance. He’s also familiar with innovative treatments. When a follow up appointment showed an increase in his PSA, he went for further testing. In December of 2020 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

After researching physicians, Barnard reached out to IU Health Dr. Michael Koch who specializes in urology. Dr. Koch then referred Barnard to IU Health radiation oncologist Dr. Omar Ishaq.

“I wanted to know exactly what my options were,” said Barnard, 78. It was on the same day, that Dr. Ishaq came to meet with Barnard at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. “It was somewhat of a relief to know that there was such an immediate response and I was in good hands,” said Barnard, who has been married to his wife, Susan, for 50 years. “Dr. Ishaq was very patient and described everything in perfect detail,” said Barnard.

According to the American Cancer Society prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in American men, behind lung cancer. About one in 41 men die of the disease. As a result of early detection and treatment, more than 3.1 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive.

Signs and symptoms include problems urinating, blood in urine, pain in hips, and weakness or numbness in the legs and feet. Early prostate cancer, however, can cause no symptoms. Screening tests are used to detect possible signs that can lead to a prostate biopsy.

Through his meeting with Dr. Ishaq, Barnard learned of an innovative procedure at IU Health Simon Cancer Center called Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). The process involves using specialized equipment to target the tumor with high doses of radiation, while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. It is sometimes used instead of surgery.

“It worked precisely the way they explained it. Dr. Ishaq made it very understandable. I weighed the risks compared to other options and SBRT seemed the way to go,” said Barnard.

To start the process he was administered a shot to knock down his testosterone levels. He returned 30 days later and underwent a procedure to implant a shield for radiation and ultra sonic beads in his prostate. Each time he returned for the treatment, he had a custom mold that pinpointed the treatment to the tumor.

“I had a single tumor so I was a perfect candidate for this targeted therapy. I had no side effects other than I may have been a little tired after the treatments,” said Barnard. He finished the treatment on May 4 and a month later began extended check ups.

“It was five months from start to finish and my recent scans showed my PSA is zero,” said Barnard. With renewed health, he said he is enjoying golfing, and he and his wife hope to again travel to their favorite places – Arizona and Colorado.

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