A man sits on top of the highest bar on a bar graph, surrounded by dark clouds.

Prostate Cancer is Top of the (Medical) Charts

Just this spring, we got the unwelcome news that prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer here in the UK. Men, we are top of the charts, though admittedly on one of the unlovliest hit parades in the world.

I may be clutching at straws, but there is an upside to this because it means many more men are coming forward to get tested and as we know; catch cancer early and your chances of survival look a whole lot better.

We need better screening protocols

Everyone in the UK over 55 is screened for bowel cancer every two years, but there’s no such screening for prostate cancer because detecting it is so problematic. The PSA test just isn’t accurate enough for national screening.

I’m a case in point, when I was diagnosed with a sizable tumor in my prostate with a Gleason score of 4+3=7, my PSA was still only 5.03 which is barely above normal. We need better tests and right now a lot of work is being put into a pre-biopsy MRI scan.

Waiting for treatment advancements

We also need better treatments but when it comes to the most common cancers huge amounts of money and resources are thrown at them. A lot of work is currently being done to improve the effectiveness of treatments to stop cancer returning. As a patient who is about to come off all treatment, this is very much a concern of mine. I’m currently part of the NED squad (no evidence of disease) and really don’t want to make a swift return to the ED squad.

Why aren't men being screened?

Here in the UK, fear of catching coronavirus is dissuading people who worry they may have developed cancer symptoms from going to the doctor. Hopefully, that’s a temporary blip, but the fact remains no matter how many posters we see telling us to get checked out or how many celebrities we hear talking about their prostate cancer, people still delay visiting the doctor because they’re scared of what they might be told. Others claim they don’t go because they don’t want to waste their doctor’s time, which in my opinion is usually one big fat lie.

We must advocate for our health

I’m sure my story is typical, but we put ourselves through some complicated mental gymnastics. I finally plucked up the courage to see my doctor and told him I’d seen blood in my urine. I remember him sitting there saying the hematuria could be the product of a urinary tract infection or perhaps a kidney stone. Initially, he said let’s monitor it and see if it goes away. And I’m like oh yes doctor, good decision let’s just leave it a while, no need to rush, except for me keen to rush out the door.

But still, he sat there, still mulling over the best course of action. In the meantime, I’m willing him to say OK Jim off you go, book an appointment in a few weeks and we’ll see where we are. To his eternal credit, he didn’t. He said no, I think you should get checked out and the first thing I want you to do is get a PSA test. Thereafter things moved pretty fast.

Deep down...I knew something was wrong

If you’re over fifty you should get a digital exam, though me saying that is unlikely to have much effect, but I’ll tell you something you might find strange. When I was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer it was actually something of a relief. Deep down I knew something was wrong and now the doctors were going to fix it.

My three years of treatment are set to conclude in September, and it’s been a rocky road but I’m still here, still not giving in to my unwelcome guest though I may never be entirely free of his company.

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