A guest in hiding

Mika Viitanen fell ill with prostate cancer at an exceptionally young age. The illness that had been in hiding in his body for a long time turned into a long-term guest.

Mika Viitanen had a painful knee. The 46-year-old teacher from Hyvinkää went to see his occupational healthcare doctor about his knee,

but the cause of the ache was not discovered. Unexpectedly, the doctor asked Mika whether his PSA levels had been measured.

“I didn’t even know what that meant,” Mika says, 13 years later.

PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. The doctor wanted to check whether Mika’s PSA levels were elevated. The test found that they were higher than usual. A biopsy was taken next, but the result was negative.

They continued to monitor Mika’s PSA levels, and more biopsies were taken every now and again, but nothing suspicious was detected, apart from the blood count. Mika used this period of monitoring wisely.

“I began to collect information about prostate cancer and on possible treatment methods.”

When his PSA values had been elevated for two years, Mika’s doctor suggested a transurethral resection of the prostate in order to make a diagnosis. The cancer was finally discovered here.

“Cancer is guaranteed to scare you, and I immediately had to be ready to choose between the treatment options. Fortunately, I had done my background work.”

The knee problem had nothing to do with Mika’s illness, but thanks to a lucky guess, the cancer was detected early enough.

Mika chose surgical treatment.

“I knew that radiotherapy could be given after surgery, if necessary, while surgery after radiotherapy was not possible.”

Mika was operated on in January 2008. During his subsequent control examinations, it was discovered that his body was not completely free of cancer.

“I had made the right decision: radiotherapy was still an option. My pelvic area was treated 36 times.”

To Mika’s great relief, his PSA values after radiotherapy were so low that they could not even be measured. However, Mika knew this was not necessarily the last he had heard from cancer. Two years later, during a control visit with a urologist, it was discovered that his PSA values were elevated again.

"It’s possible to lead a good and balanced life in spite of cancer", says Mika.

“That was tough. I had gone through two demanding forms of treatment and I was still ill. Fortunately, Tapio Utriainen is a specialist in the treatment of spread prostate cancer, and I feel safe being treated by him.”

Mika’s prostate cancer is now dormant, and treatment is not needed if the situation remains unchanged. Based on his experiences, Mika thinks it’s particularly important for cancer patients to pay attention to their aftercare.

“I am, after all, in the best hands in Finland and receive excellent service throughout the treatment chain.”

Mika has lived with cancer for nearly 11 years. He says that joining Propo, the Finnish association for prostate cancer patients, has been essential for his well-being.

“The other members were much older than me, as my prostate cancer was diagnosed at an exceptionally early age. But then I realised the power of seeing people who had lived with cancer for 20 years and who were still alive. It has made me realise that I also have a future.”

Mika also trained to become a peer support person and runs a group in Hyvinkää.

“Through peer support, I can give people hope and share information, which is particularly important in the initial phase, when people are still in shock.”

Prostate cancer patients want other men to know that it’s possible to lead a good and balanced life in spite of cancer.

“I hope all men will be able to trust that you can learn to live with prostate cancer. I lead a normal life, with a regular job and hobbies.”

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer among Finnish men. More than 5,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Their average age is around 70. The prognosis is usually good, and new treatment practices are being created all the time. In diagnosing prostate cancer, the most important laboratory test is the blood test used to measure PSA values. PSA, or prostatespecific antigen, is a protein secreted by benign or malignant prostate tissue. In other words, PSA values alone are not enough to diagnose cancer.

The Finnish association for prostate cancer patients www.propo.fi/

 

Feb 13, 2019

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