Phil Lesh Still Jamming After Two Bouts With Cancer
- The Grateful Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh, is still jamming and thrilling fans at age 82, after facing cancer twice.
- The musician was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and then faced bladder cancer less than 10 years later.
- Lesh has always kept his fans in the loop, and touted the importance of early detection when it comes to both prostate and bladder cancer.
Lesh has faced both prostate cancer and bladder cancer, and has always been candid with fans about those difficulties — as well as other struggles he’s gone through in his life. In a 2005 memoir “Searching for the Sound: My Life With the Grateful Dead,” Lesh gave Deadheads an intimate look into the makings and inner-workings of the band that managed to capture the spirit of the ’60s in sound.Read More
When Lesh was later diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, he told the Wall Street Journal that he had robot assisted surgery to remove his prostate. In a post to his fans where he discussed the diagnosis, Lesh wrote, “Since we caught it very early and it’s small and slow-growing, I fully expect to have a rapid and complete recovery. I am feeling energetic as always and my scheduled appearances will occur as planned.”
Lesh was fortunate in that the disease was caught early. When this cancer is caught early, it is much easier to treat. In the United States, it’s recommended that men ages 55 to 70 with an average risk of prostate cancer speak with their physicians about how often they should be screened for the disease.
The screening involves a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, which is a blood test, and a rectal exam.
“They’re inexpensive and relatively non-invasive,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, Medical Director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai’s Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, said of the screening tests. “No man is really excited about having a rectal examination, which means that a doctor has to literally touch the prostate gland through the rectum … [but] honestly, it takes less than 30 seconds to get it down and it’s relatively painless.
Dr. Edwin Posadas explains why prostate cancer screening is so important.
“I’m not saying it’s comfortable,” he added. “But at the same time, the amount of information that can be gained from that is tremendous, and it can be a life and death type of decision that is made.”
Lesh’s second bout with cancer
Less than 10 years after going through prostate cancer, Lesh took to Facebook to announce that he had been diagnosed with cancer again — this time of the bladder. He announced to fans that he was undergoing surgery to remove tumors, and again, shared an optimistic message about catching cancer early — and powering through treatment.
“I am very fortunate to have the pathology reports show that the tumors are all non-aggressive, and that there is no indication that they have spread,” he said. “So thanks to my local doctor Cliff Sewell, and the incredible team at the Mayo Clinic, all is well and I can return to normal activities in two weeks from my surgery.”
Like prostate cancer, and many other cancers, bladder cancer often responds well to treatment when it is detected early. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of symptoms.
Dr. Jay Shah, a urologic oncologist at the Stanford Cancer Center, said that the first sign many patients pick up on is blood in the urine.
Dr. Jay Shah explains common bladder cancer symptoms to be aware of.
“The typical patient that finds out that they have bladder cancer does so because they see blood when they go to pee. That’s almost always the first sign,” he explained. “It’s painless bleeding when you pee … What happens very often is that someone will see blood in the urine, they’ll rightly go to their local physician, their primary care physician, and they’ll get treatment for a UTI. And they’ll be told, take some antibiotics for a few days. You probably just have a urine infection — and that can be dangerous, because we can miss bladder cancers that way.”
Other commons signs of bladder cancer to be aware of are
- Needing to urinate more frequently
- Feeling an urgent need to urinate when your bladder isn’t full
- Waking up to urinate many times during the night
- Trouble due to pain or burning when urinating
When bladder cancer is detected, surgery, chemo, radiation, and immunotherapy can all be involved in treatment. Some patients may even have to have their bladder removed through a procedure called a cystectomy.