Raising Awareness and Saving Lives
Prostate cancer is generally not screened for in most parts of the world, or is being screened for less. This is leading to fewer cases being diagnosed but an increase in the number of men diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer when it’s incurable.1,2,3
Lack of awareness
We also face the problem that most men are simply not aware that they should request tests for prostate cancer once they are in the high-risk groups, typically men over 50 or men over 45 with a family history and Black men over 45.
In fact, typically, most men have no idea what the prostate is and what it does! I know that I was completely ignorant before my diagnosis.
This is a frightening combination: lack of screening coupled with lack of awareness. And yet we know that early diagnosis generally leads to significantly-improved outcomes.
Getting tested for prostate cancer
My own case is a perfect example. I didn’t know that I could request, indeed have a right to, a PSA blood test from age 50. I was diagnosed terminal at age 60, three years ago, and they believe I’d had prostate cancer for 10 years at diagnosis.
Until a robust screening test is developed, the only way we can save lives is by raising awareness. Keep shouting it from the rooftops: “GO AND GET TESTED FELLAS.”
Sharing your diagnosis
However, the first step to being an awareness raiser is acknowledging that you have to be open about your own diagnosis. There is nothing quite like telling your story of the lived experience to get men to go and get tested.
This is a barrier, though. We have to accept that, for some men, being open is not for them, and respect their wishes. That just means that those of us who are comfortable and whose partners are also comfortable with openness need to shout louder!
Thankfully, my wife and I both shared the view that we should be open about my diagnosis. But it took a while to realize that I could use that to help save men’s lives.
Having a platform
The next thing we need is a platform to shout from, and this is where organizations like ProstateCancer.net and, here in the UK, Prostate Cancer UK, are so important.
In late 2017, I became an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK and have since done many TV as well as radio interviews for them, and written numerous articles for the press and magazines.
I also deliver awareness talks to sports clubs, running clubs, workplaces, etc. I’ve been very fortunate to be allowed a platform to speak at major events in front of hundreds of people. I’ll basically talk to anyone who’s prepared to listen!
Chatting with your mates
However, the simplest awareness is to chat with your mates down the pub, or chatting to a client or work mate. I know from experience how powerful and effective this is.
I chatted to a client whose partner, now husband, I also knew and told them my story. He went to his GPs but, as he was only 47 and asymptomatic, the GP was reluctant to do any tests. But thankfully they were done. His PSA was well above the norm for his age. Another test a few weeks later showed a 10% increase in the PSA level.
He went on to have successful curative treatment, and I’ll never forget the telephone call where he said, “thank you for saving my life.” My response was, “I didn’t save your life. I just gave you the information and awareness to do something about your prostate health, and you did the rest.”
So for those in the prostate cancer club, don’t be shy about having that simple conversation, as it could well save someone’s life!
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?