Eamon Jackson flew 1,000 miles to get ground-breaking therapy after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer – one of 3,500 men diagnosed with the same disease every year in Ireland. ‘I’ve never looked back,’ he says.
A KINSALE man diagnosed with prostate cancer said his life was saved thanks to a pioneering technology that is not yet available in Ireland.
Eamon Jackson, 64, from Kinsale, spoke to The Southern Star about how he flew 1,000 miles to the Czech Republic for proton therapy to treat his cancer.
He said he had his PSA levels – a test which measures the level of prostate specific antigen in the blood – monitored thanks to urgings of his health-conscious wife, Una.
A normal PSA reading for a man in his 60s is around three, but Eamon’s, a father of two, had skyrocketed to 27.
The engineer co-owns the robotic firm ICP NewTech in Kilbrittain near Bandon – a company that among other things makes robots used in bomb disposal.
He underwent three painful biopsies before it was confirmed that he had prostate cancer, despite having no other symptoms.
Concerned about the diagnosis, and desperate to find a treatment that would not compromise his way of life, Eamon went against the advice of specialists in Ireland and opted for the treatment at the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague in the Czech Republic.
Now cancer-free, Eamon said: ‘I’ve never looked back.’
Eamon is, in fact, among 3,500 men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – a disease that is the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer.
The traditional treatment tends to be surgery to remove all or part of the prostate, or radiotherapy. Both options carry a risk of erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
In contrast, proton therapy uses pencil-point precision to target cancerous cells while sparing surrounding organs and tissue –meaning fewer side effects.
The treatment is not available in Ireland, which meant Eamonn had no choice but to look abroad.
He said his specialist wanted him to have a fourth biopsy, but he asked his medical team outright: ‘Do I have cancer or not?’ and they confirmed he did.
Referring to how traditional treatment for prostate cancer can lead to erectile dysfunction, he said: ‘I thought I was a goner, or at least one part of me would be a goner.’
He said: ‘My doctor tried to advise me not to go for proton therapy. He recommended a second opinion.
‘The next doctor told me that if I woke up in the morning with a brain tumour, then he would recommend proton therapy, but he wouldn’t recommend it for prostate cancer.
‘I thought it was ridiculous to recommend proton therapy for one type of cancer and not the other. I knew I was going to have it done.
‘I was very positive about the whole thing. I did the research and, for me, proton therapy made logical sense.’
Eamon travelled to Prague for five ‘fractions’ of treatment over the course of 10 days – at a cost of €25k.
He said: ‘I found it very professional from the second I walked in until the moment I left.
‘The staff were very easy to approach and the language barrier wasn’t a problem because they speak perfect English.
‘Una was very concerned when I was having the fractions. But I felt absolutely nothing during the process. It was incredible.
‘I had my treatment at the centre in the mornings and I would go sightseeing in Prague in the afternoons. It was a really positive experience for me. I’m now fit and well, and I’m very busy.’
Encouraging more men to talk openly about the health of their prostate, Eamon said: ‘Some people find personal subjects hard to discuss, but it should be quite the opposite. We should encourage more people to do the test because ignorance in this situation can be deadly.’