Each month we support national awareness campaigns relevant to our industry and every March it’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, We were contacted by Steve Cooper, Business Development Manager at The Guild, one of our long term supporters. Steve wanted to share with us his own journey with prostate cancer, from diagnosis to recovery and highlight the importance of getting checked:
For several years, I put off being tested for prostate cancer, despite my wife constantly reminding me to do exactly that. I visited my GP and asked casually what I should look out for regarding symptoms. I recall the conversation very well and he asked if I got up in the night to go to the toilet? “No” was my reply, unless I had been drinking alcohol, ”I wouldn’t worry” was my GP’s response. Furthermore, there was no history of prostate cancer in my family. What I was really frightened of was the physical examination so I thought that’s me in the clear then.
In the late summer of 2020, I started to experience chest pains so in the October of the same year I spoke to my GP about this. He suggested a chest x-ray and a series of blood tests to check for diabetes, liver problems, prostate cancer etc etc.
To my relief the results of the chest x-ray showed that it was a muscular problem. However, the results of the blood tests taken for prostate cancer showed a PSA reading of 7.0. I was reassured that the reading wasn’t too high, just high enough to arouse suspicion, but this was news I just didn’t want to hear.
The doctor explained that PSA readings can be inconsistent and asked me to wait for a further 12 days before having the blood test again. This time the PSA reading was slightly lower at 5.5.
I am fortunate enough to have private health insurance, so it was recommended that I consult with a urologist for further investigation. At my first appointment, I was asked to produce a urine sample (flow test) to assess how quickly I could pee. One of the well-known symptoms or prostate cancer is a weak flow of urine but this wasn’t a problem for me.
For him to understand why my PSA reading was higher than normal he had to give me a physical examination – the one thing I had been avoiding for the past 10 years or more, but I was at the point of no return.
The physical examination wasn’t as bad as I had convinced myself that it would be, and it was over in less than 30 seconds. He found a slightly rough area on the edge of my prostate and the next stage would be to have an MRI scan. A PET CT scan was also arranged in early December 2020, to check for damage to my lymph nodes and bones within the pelvic region. I was told afterwards that if I did have prostate cancer, I would have to undergo a series of biopsies.
This was arranged just before Christmas 2020. A man’s prostrate varies in size and is usually no larger than a walnut. I was told thay with a large prostrate then up to 50 samples can be taken, I was very pleased to hear that my prostrate was on the small side and they would only be taking 16 samples, 8 from each side. This is a somewhat unpleasant feeling under a local anaesthetic,
I received a phone call from my urologist with the results of the biopsies on New Year’s Eve 2020, He confirmed that 1 of the 16 samples taken showed a 5% area of cancer. Very small for the number of samples taken but he did confirm that I had prostate cancer and I had a Gleason score of 4+3 = 7. He went onto reassure me that my condition was treatable, and we would speak again the New Year.
I wanted to hear that if I did have cancer then they would ‘place me under active surveillance’, where I would have a PSA blood test every 6 months to see if the cancer had grown. But due to the location of the cancer on the edge of the prostrate, it could easily spread to my bones so this wasn’t an option for me. Other forms of treatment were suggested but after discussions with my family and the specialists it was determined that the best long term option or me was to have surgery.
So, on April 22nd 2021 I had robotic surgery. No one was more apprehensive than me, here I was a 64 year old man having major surgery and I have never even been in hospital before in my entire life.
Within 6 hours of entering hospital, I was back in my room following the successful surgery. The morning after my operation, I asked how long I would have had until the cancer was too far advanced to be treated. My surgeon told me I would have had just two to three years.
12 months on there are very few side effects. For me, surgery was the best option and all I have now is 3 monthly blood tests to ensure my PSA level is under control, as there is an 80% chance of the cancer returning within 5 years so a watchful eye is important moving forward.
I had no history of such a cancer in my family and no symptoms. Had it not been for the unrelated chest pains then my cancer would have gone undiagnosed and untreated. I am lucky to be alive, so if you’re a male reading this, then make sure you have the blood test. It could save your life.