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Cancer - Prostate

Dr Jules Eden, dive medicine specialist and founder of e-med, answers divers' questions - as published in Sport Diver magazine:
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Q - Having recently retired my plans have been somewhat derailed by a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I am about to start a course of injections called triptorelin, a month before embarking on my Divemaster qualification. I had intended to complete this in UK waters before jetting off to sunnier climes, but wanted your advice on whether I need to rethink. Will I be ok to dive? My radiotherapy does not start until 6 months later. Thanks for any info as no one can give me an answer.

A - My sympathies on this dreadfully awkward timing. Globally, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer, but the 5 year survival rate is extremely encouraging, at 99% in developed countries. In fact it is often so slow to progress that it can be safely left; studies of men dying of unrelated causes have found prostate cancer in 30-70% of those over the age of 60. The treatment you're going to be having is a hormone that essentially induces a “chemical castration” – it completely suppresses the production of testosterone, which the cancer depends on to grow. Side effects can include “tumour flare” in the first few weeks of treatment, with bone or back pain and pins and needles in the legs; later, hot flushes, sweats, painful joints, fatigue and headaches are all possible. A month between starting your treatment and your Divemaster may be pushing it; if you can, I'd suggest lengthening the interval just to be sure none of these side effects are going to manifest themselves for the first time on a dive.

Q - I have just been diagnosed with prostrate cancer. Radical surgery advised within 4-6 weeks. Can I dive in the meantime? NO symptoms. Also can I dive in the future and when. Doc's at hospital NOT very astute re diving etc. Thanks.

A - Poor you. I hope it all works out. If you are asymptomatic, no metastases to the bone, or local invasion to important vessels, and you feel well enough then diving is no problem. Once its been removed, and you have been given the all clear, then give it a few weeks and diving should be fine too.

Point to note here, thank medical science for progress. In the old days one of the cures for prostate cancer was orchidectomy. That’s castration to you and me. Ouch.

(other dive medical questions)



   


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