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SpaceOAR System Helps North Branford Man Beat Prostate Cancer
September 18, 2019
In keeping with tradition, Ray Polizzi had the honor of ringing Middlesex Health Cancer Center’s bell three times after he completed his treatment for prostate cancer. It was a simple action, but symbolic. It marked a new beginning, and the sounds of the bell brought him such joy.
“You finish your treatment,” Polizzi says. “You don’t look back. You look forward.”
The North Branford resident was referred to Middlesex Health urologist Timothy Siegrist in the spring of 2018 after results from a routine PSA test came back high. Several tests later, and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the No. 1 cancer in men.
Diagnosed with lung cancer twice over the past decade, this was not Polizzi’s first battle with cancer. However, that didn’t make receiving the news any easier.
“It slaps you in the face,” Polizzi says. “I was scared. You have to be.”
Polizzi says beating cancer is about your attitude. It is also important to do your research, ask questions and advocate for yourself, he adds.
When Dr. Siegrist and Dr. Anwar Khan, chair of Radiation Oncology at Middlesex Health, outlined Polizzi’s prostate cancer treatment options, Polizzi did not hesitate. He opted for radiation therapy using the SpaceOAR System and hormone therapy. Middlesex is one of the few cancer centers in the country to use the SpaceOAR System, which requires urologists and radiation oncologists to collaborate to ensure successful treatment.
Polizzi had done his homework. He knew the SpaceOAR System uses an injectable gel to create a temporary space between the prostate and rectum. This space limits the impact of radiation to the gastrointestinal system and lowers the risk of side effects while ensuring that the full dose of radiation is delivered to the prostate gland, resulting in improved treatment outcomes. After hearing stories from other men who were impacted by the side effects associated with radiation therapy, Polizzi knew, if it was an option, using the SpaceOAR System was what he wanted.
Polizzi had 44 radiation treatments using the SpaceOAR System, and he says he experienced few, if any, side effects. Middlesex Health staff knew what to do, told him what to expect and made him comfortable, he says, explaining that he kept things light-hearted by wearing the “treatment T-shirts” his three grandchildren made him. The shirts came in five colors—one for each treatment day of the week and read, “Papa. The man. The myth. The legend.” On treatment day 44, he wore a special T-shirt that read, “Nailed it.”
“Someone out there is looking over me,” Polizzi says.
About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate, a walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. While it’s not clear what causes prostate cancer, there are 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States each year. Risk factors include your age, race, family history and whether you are obese.
Early prostate cancer rarely has symptoms. A screening by your doctor may help identify prostate cancer when it still localized to the prostate. Screenings can include a digital rectal exam or a PSA test, which involves a blood sample.
More advanced prostate cancer symptoms can include trouble urinating, pelvic area pain, back pain or bone pain.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Middlesex Health is here for you. Its offices remain open, and Middlesex is now providing telehealth visits to ensure that you can get the medical care you need without having to leave your home.