Prostate cancer is deemed with ovarian cancer for women, the ‘silent killer’.
Often symptomless, painless and benign, prostate cancer if detected early enough has a high recovery rate. I’m writing about this to impart my experience in the hope that other men will get themselves checked out.
If February this year, I answered a plea for volunteers to have their PSA (prostrate specific antigens) levels checked. I went along with no preconception about what I was letting myself in for, and thought it was a simple blood test. The tests were being run by a charity whose name I’ve forgotten but their mission is to spread awareness about the simple PSA test to detect any abnormalities. There was a cost involved which went towards the costs of transport, nurses and administration of the charity, but also the testing of the blood samples. The unfortunate thing is that there is national or NHS screening programme for PSA testing. In medical circles there is a difference of opinion about whether PSA testing is a reliable indication of anything wrong. A high PSA can give a ‘false positive’ in that it doesn’t indicate the presence of cancer. Amazingly in a survey, 5% of men questioned didn’t know they had a prostate gland! So getting the message out there is especially important to men of a ‘certain age’. Also statistically more men due WITH prostate cancer than due OF it.
So my results came back from my PSA test with the charity at 5.7. For my age it should be 3.9 or less, and the letter I received urged to see my GP for further testing. As I was in the throes of moving I got it done quickly and saw my old GP. He referred me to the urology department in the local hospital and I duly turned to be examined. Now, for those of a nervous disposition, jump the rest of this paragraph. The lovely nurse met me and I thought oh she’s taking me to see a male doctor. None of that I’m afraid, she talked to me and eventually said she would like to examine me. The term used is DRE, which stands for digital rectal examination. Yes folks she got me on the gurney and got another nurse in as a chaperone and told me to drop my trousers and pants and lie on my side on the gurney and bring my knees up. Then she inserted a rubber-gloved finger to have a ‘feel around’, and sure enough it hurt a bit. When she finished, she said there was a slight rough patch which warranted further investigation. Then I got dressed and the nurse said that she would to get me sent me for an MRI (magnetic resonance indicator) test to see if anything was amiss. A week or so later i went off to the hospital in Frimley and went into the MRI scanner room with no idea what was going to happen. The MRI scanner made lots of thumping and whirring and moved in and out of the machine (as seen in numerous medical dramas on TV). You’re wearing a headset with music playing with the occasional interruption by a soothing voice telling what was going on. ‘The next segment is 5 minutes long’, ‘the next segment is 45 seconds’ and so. The whole thing lasted about 45 minutes with the results due to be given to be a couple of weeks later.
I went to my appointment with the nurses boss, Mr Bott a few weeks later, and he said that MRI wasn’t conclusive so wanted me to have a biopsy. This would involve shooting a laser at the prostate to pick out 36 points which would be a better indication of their being anything wrong. I awaited this appointment with trepidation. It came round on 3rd August and was to be a day surgery procedure. So I arrived at the appointed time and everything was explained in great detail. It all went very well and I now await the results in about three weeks time. For various reasons I’m hopeful that the outcome will be benign, but if it isn’t at least I’ve caught it early.
My message is simply this: guys get your PSA levels checked, especially if you have family history. The guy in the next bed to me was only 45 but had a family history of prostrate cancer, and so did he. Another friend has had his prostate removed in his forties, so it proves you can be quite young. So don’t think you only have to be an old git.