Cancer Patient Stories from Via Christi Health

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Top-flight treatment

Brachytherapy helped pilot stay in the cockpit while fighting cancer

As a lead helicopter pilot for a critical care ambulance service serving southeast Kansas, Pat Carden’s job was saving lives. Pat, 61, who retired from Joplin, Mo.-based MedFlight in April, played a critical role when seconds meant the difference between life and death.

But last year he found out he was the one in need of medical care when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“When I first found out that I had cancer, I was in kind of a shock,” Pat says. “It is really fear of the unknown. As I progressed, I learned that prostate cancer, if detected early, has a high cure rate.”

After careful research, Pat decided his best treatment option was brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation. Brachytherapy is a procedure that uses radioactive seed implants to fight a tumor.

“I decided to do seed implantation because of its success rate,” Pat says of his desire for positive long-term results that would enable him to keep flying and help others. “I didn’t have to miss any work. I was told that 25 percent of people who have seed implantation feel virtually no pain afterward. I was lucky that I was one of these patients.”

Pat’s treatment was administered by Duane Myers, MD, at Via Christi Cancer Center at the hospital in Pittsburg. Dr. Myers is the area’s resident expert in brachytherapy treatment.

“The advantages of brachytherapy for treating certain types of cancer are immeasurable,” Dr. Myers says. “Pat is a great example of how this treatment allows people to stay extremely active while fighting the disease. He was a great patient to work with and now
is a true advocate of brachytherapy.”

Says Pat of the Cancer Center staff and his caregivers: “I cannot brag enough on this group of people. Dr. Myers and his nurse, Lori Mays, are two of the finest people that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I know they are always there for me.”

Pat didn’t let cancer stall his career or outlook. He was recently named a Health Care Hero award winner by a four-state publication for his work in the cockpit. And better yet, each PSA (prostatespecific antigen) test result since undergoing brachytherapy shows his treatment worked.

Via Christi Cancer Center in Pittsburg is accredited with commendation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons and a founding partner of the Midwest Cancer Alliance. Providing the latest treatments, state-of-theart technology and skill of expert physicians to battle all types of cancer, the center houses a $2.7 million linear accelerator that allows for more precise treatment of cancer. This enables patients to stay closer to home with shorter appointments and more complex treatment plans.

What is brachytherapy treatment for prostate cancer? 

Brachytherapy is the placement of radioactive seeds inside the prostate gland. The “seeds,” no larger than the size of the end of a pencil lead, are actually metal containers that hold radioactive material. Over the course of two to three months, the radioactive material decays while fighting the prostate cancer.

Why should a patient consider brachytherapy?

It’s not as invasive as traditional radical prostatectomy or the newer procedure of robotic prostatectomy. It is an outpatient, singleday procedure that works extremely well. Instead of 44 treatments over nine weeks for external beam treatment, brachytherapy means one trip to Via Christi Cancer Center. This makes a difference, particularly when considering distance and time of the trip, price of gas, and effort of each appointment.

What are benefits of brachytherapy?

We have almost no incidents of urinary incontinence, plus, impotence rates with brachytherapy are usually less than with prostatectomy. Brachytherapy has been growing in popularity for 20 years as ultrasound and computer technologies improve. After the procedure, a patient is able to return to work and everyday activities quickly.


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