He's Still Standing
- Legendary singer Elton John, 74, recently took part in a special performance for Global Citizen in Paris to end poverty, his last time hitting the stage before having hip replacement surgery.
- After surviving addiction and prostate cancer, it seems nothing will knock the piano legend down, and it’s admirable that he keeps his fans clued in on his health conditions, promising that he will return for tour in 2023.
- Leading experts tell SurvivorNet the top things that men can be doing to prevent and detect this type of cancer: Quitting smoking, changing your diet, and getting a colonoscopy are among a few of the top ways to stay ahead of this disease.
Elton, 74, just headlined a special concert for The Global Citizen charity which works to relieve poverty. It is his last performance before having hip replacement surgery. After surviving addiction and prostate cancer, it seems nothing will knock the piano legend down, and it’s admirable that he continuously keeps his fans clued in on his health conditions, promising that he will return for tour in 2023.Read More
“What a blast! It was an honour to open the #GlobalCitizenLive show in Paris to support the incredible work that @glblctzn do and perform for the last time before my surgery alongside such great friends and performers,” John wrote, thanking Global Citizen, the city of Paris, and singer Charlie Puth, whom he has a new single with, “After All.”
Multi-award winning singer and producer Ed Sheeran also performed, along with pop-rap act the Black Eyed Peas.
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Earlier this month, the singer announced that he would be postponing his European and United Kingdom Dates for the rest of his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” until 2023 due to a serious injury.
“At the end of my summer break I fell awkwardly on a hard surface and have been in considerable pain and discomfort in my hip ever since,” the Rocket Man shared, explaining that his pain has gotten increasingly worse and is majorly affecting his mobility, despite intensive physical therapy.
“I have been advised to have an operation as soon as possible to get me back to full fitness and make sure there are no long-term complications,” he continued. “I will be undertaking a program of intensive physiotherapy that will ensure a full recovery and a return to full mobility without pain.”
The artist has endured quite a bit throughout his life, but when you have gone through cancer, it can help prepare you mentally for other health battles along the way. However, physically, it can potentially be more difficult to recover as quickly from other injuries/surgeries. Also, managing pain following surgery can be more challenging for former addicts who are unable to take commonly prescribed medications.
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Elton’s Prostate Cancer Journey
Elton John was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at 70 years old. The Grammy winner had surgery to remove his prostate but nearly died due to complications after contracting a life-threatening infection in South America while he was recovering.
“I had complications as a result of that, which is very unlucky, and I was in great pain,” he told TODAY. “I came back to England and (went) straight into the hospital because I was shaking with fever, and I picked up a really strong virus down there, which nearly killed me.”
John also shared that he performed in a diaper when he first hit the stage after surgery. His honesty and forthcoming attitude is admirable, as he fights to destigmatize what can be perceived as embarrassing in relation to cancer care and older age.
In his autobiography, Me, John wrote about the experience, revealing that he spent 11 days in the hospital and wasn’t sure if he’d make it home to husband David Furnish and their two boys. “I didn’t really know how close to death I was,” he admitted. “I was ill because I kept saying, ‘Please let me get well. I want to see my kids.’ But I had tubes coming out of every part of my body, and it took me seven weeks to recover from that when I went home.”
John and Furnish had Zachary, 8, and Elijah, 6, via the same California-based surrogate who remains unnamed.
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Getting older is a main increase factor for prostate cancer risk. Here are the primary risk factors:
- Race (Black men face a higher risk of prostate cancer, as well as a higher rate of death from the disease.)
- Family History
- Genetics (If you have close male relatives who have had this cancer, you should start screening for it at an earlier age.)
Strategies to help avoid getting this type of cancer include: exercising regularly, quitting smoking, cutting out unhealthy sugars and fat, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Many experts also agree that cutting back on alcohol definitely doesn’t hurt.
SurvivorNet spoke with a handful of leading experts who weighed in on the things that men can be doing to avoid getting prostate cancer, or detecting this typically slow-growing disease before it can be life-threatening.
According to medical professionals, a colonoscopy—an exam that views the inside of the colon (large intestine) and rectum—should be done at age 50, if you have no family history and no other risk factors. If you have a family history of colon cancer, and somebody in your immediate family, a first or second-degree relative had colon cancer before the age of 50, a general rule of thumb is that you should get tested ten years earlier than that relative.
Dr. James Brooks, urologic oncologist at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, tells SurivorNet that men between the ages of 55 and 70 should get a PSA test. “If a man has an elevated PSA, he has somewhere around a 20 to 40 percent chance of having prostate cancer,” Dr. Brooks explains. “The latest data shows that the death rates from prostate cancer are down 53 percent compared to their peak. The thing that changed the most in that timeframe, screening for prostate cancer using PSA blood testing.”
We know that smoking causes lung cancer and that quitting can help the success of your lung cancer surgery, but smoking can have an impact on prostate cancer as well, Dr. Steve Freedland, urologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center tells SurvivorNet that “something we don’t hear a lot about but it is actually correlated with dying of prostate cancer is smoking. We know it’s bad for your lung cancer and many cancers, but it actually correlates with dying of prostate cancer,” Dr. Freedland explains.
Watching your weight can also majorly cut down on your risk, as obese men are about 35% more likely to die from prostate cancer. Dr. Edwin Posadas, Director of Translational Oncology and Medical Director of the urologic oncology program at Cedar Sinai Medical Center, says that obesity does indeed correlate with prostate cancer risk. “We know this because biologically the fat that’s built up in the body, the insulin that builds up in response to all of the excess sugar intake, they’re all stimulants for prostate cancer growth and aggression,” he says. “Understanding these things and helping men to know that they should avoid these types of lifestyle changes can help minimize risk.”
Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer; What to Expect
If you have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is helpful to hear from other survivors on what to expect, in addition to all of the information that you soak in during a crash course from your doctor.
When George Crawford, 81, was first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, the prognosis came as a massive shock.
“When my doctor told me that I had stage four cancer, a very, very aggressive cancer, he didn’t say in so many words I had four months to live … but he gave every signal that he could that this was not a good story at all,” he told SurvivorNet. George got lucky and was on chemotherapy when his doctor heard about a hormonal therapy called Zytiga. The therapy works by blocking the production of androgens, which are the hormones that help prostate cancers to grow.
Now, after getting through the toughest part of his journey, George shares some advice for anyone feeling uncertain about a new cancer diagnosis:
- Have a co-pilot—Having someone by your side to lean on, or even just help you remember information your doctor gives you, makes a huge difference.
- Understand your options—Your opinion does matter when you’re dealing with treatment options. So make sure you’re being candid and open with your doctor.
- Foolproof medication system—This works out differently for everyone. If you need to set reminders on your phone to remember what to take and when, do it!
- Making sure you are adjusted to your new medication schedule is crucial.
- Discuss chemo program with your doctor—Are you worried about side effects? Nervous about how the chemotherapy sessions will proceed? If you are, say so. Make sure you’re on the same page with your doctor.
“If I can do it, you can do it,” George expresses to fellow fighters out there.
Treating Prostate Cancer
As more prostate cancer treatments become available, different companies naturally claim their technology is the best—but some procedures yield the same benefits and side effects. “The first thing I tell patients is there is no rush to make a decision,” says Dr. Patrick Swift, a radiation oncologist and Clinical Professor of Radiation Oncology at Stanford. “There is time to gather the information.”
It’s important to do your research and ensure the treatment being recommended for you is appropriate for your specific case.
“Prostate cancer is a population where there’s a tremendous profit to be made. And that’s been a problem across the country for the last 20 years,” Dr. Swift shares with full transparency. “It’s gotten worse with the development of new technology, and everyone takes their technology and tries to model it as being the best that’s out there when there are multiple different platforms that can take care of the problem.”
There are differences in how long it takes to get the treatment in, and how much motion there could be.
“So the CyberKnife, for instance, if you’re going to treat the prostate, will actually take as much as 20 to 30 minutes with each treatment, during which time there can be a lot of motion,” he says. The CyberKnife System is a non-invasive, non-surgical, pain-free treatment option for prostate cancer.
“The linear accelerator with Calypso, for instance, if you’re going to do the stereotactic treatment, will be done in four minutes.” Calypso allows radiation oncologists to execute higher doses of radiation to a smaller area.
As far as side effects? “There’s no difference in terms of the side effect,” Dr. Swift says. “We’re going to see the same side effects. We’re going to see the same efficacy because the doses are going to be the same with them.”
The first thing he tells patients is there is no rush to make a decision.
“This is not like pancreatic cancer or lung cancer. There is time to make a decision,” he insists. “There’s enough time to drive yourself crazy, too, but there’s time to gather the information.”
Dr. Swift says that the treatment really needs to be tailored to the individual statistics of that person’s disease at that time. After surgery, normal bladder function usually returns within several weeks or months, occurring slowly over time.