MARCH IS PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Towards the end of 2008, I went to see my doctor (GP) for unrelated matters but while at the surgery asked her for a PSA blood test. This is a Prostate Specific Antigen test that gives an indication of the health of the prostate and possible presence of prostate cancer. I had the advantage over many other men. My father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer some years before. I had also been to two charity events, one with the Jamaica Association UK Trust and the other with Kiwanis of London, the Children’s Charity where presentations about prostate cancer were given.
The occasion that most focused my mind on the issue of prostate cancer was a programme on BBC Radio 4, Women’s Hour, featuring poet and playwright Benjamin Zephaniah. Benjamin Zephaniah played a major role in raising awareness in the Caribbean community, supporting the Prostate Cancer Charity. He was moved to write a play (De Botty Business) to help break down myths, taboos and fears about the physical examination of men for prostate cancer.
For it is only men who have a prostate and therefore only men who can contract prostate cancer. The prostate is the size of a walnut and is found immediately under the bladder and bisected by the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. My doctor provided me with the blood request form for the PSA blood test without hesitation. Despite advice from the Chief Medical Officer to General Practitioners, that is not always the experience of every man who asks their doctor for a PSA blood test. When the test results came back my doctor advised me that my PSA reading was slightly raised.
She referred me to the Urology Clinic for a prostate biopsy and further tests. I had convinced myself that the tests would come back negative and it would be a case of me repeating the PSA blood test periodically. After all, I was in no pain or discomfort and to my knowledge, I had no symptoms of prostate cancer. The doctor did not seem unduly concerned. Part of the examination process was the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). Many men find the thought of the DRE off putting if not frightening. However, because of the location of the prostate, the back passage is the only way the doctor has access to conduct a physical examination.
The fears of this part of the medical examination process is unfounded as the doctors are specialists in their field, have done the procedure numerous times before, reassure the patient and although an unusual experience, is quick and painless. It was during the DRE examination that the specialist advised me he could feel a node on my prostate, something I was not born with. I duly had the prostate biopsy where samples were taken at various areas of my prostate. In December 2008, I saw the specialists for the result of my biopsy and it was confirmed that I had prostate cancer.
Discussions immediately followed with the Senior Registrar and Consultant Urological Surgeon about possible treatment. There was one final hurdle to overcome before treatment could be finalised. I had to have a bone scan to check if the cancer had spread beyond the capsule of my prostate to nearby organs and to my bones. This was the most challenging moment of my medical examinations and assessments. Even after the bone scan, the technicians were unable to give me the results themselves but I had to go back to see the Consultant some days later for this purpose. Thankfully for me, the cancer had not spread to my bones.
I informed my immediate and extended family about the diagnosis. It seemed more difficult for the family. I was resigned to take one day at a time and was confident the medical team would do the best they could for me. It was not a situation I had any control over.
I was 55 years old at the time and the Consultant and his team recommended that the most appropriate treatment in my case was to remove the diseased prostate by keyhole surgery. This would cause less trauma, less loss of blood, be conducive to a quicker recovery and discharge from the hospital within a couple of days of the procedure. My keyhole procedure went very well. I did not require any other form of medicine or treatment and have been cancer free since January 2009.
Since my diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I have been involved in prostate cancer awareness in the community. I started a Face book group that now has over 3000 members including health professionals, family members bereaved through prostate cancer and men living with prostate cancer through various stages.
There are a number of risk factors for prostate cancer. The older men get, the greater incidence of prostate cancer there will be. Family history is another factor. The more members of a family who have prostate cancer, the greater the risk factors for other male members. Black men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than white men. It is widely suggested that diet may play a crucial role as a preventative measure.
In the United Kingdom, all men over 50 years old are entitled to a PSA blood test on the National Health Service. Men with a family history and those with any form of urinary problems should see their doctor without delay.
I have been supporting the work of The Prostate Cancer Charity www.prostate-cancer.org.uk for a number of years now. You can find out more information on signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, diet and prostate cancer on their website. If you are worried about prostate cancer or if you are worried about a man in your family, you should call the Prostate Cancer Helpline on 0800 074 8383 to speak to a Cancer Specialist Nurse in confidence. Calls are free from UK landlines.
As a prostate cancer survivor and someone who has lost two close family members to the disease, I know how important the work of the Prostate Cancer Charity is to men and their families.
I am raising money for the Prostate Cancer Charity through my Justgiving page www.justgiving.com/David-Michael3.
It’s easy, quick and safe to donate with a credit or debit card. If you do not have access to the internet or are unhappy to make money transactions in this way, please send your donations to David Michael c/o Cause Consultancy, PO Box 67263, London SE6 9JZ.