When Terry Mitchell noticed some blood in his urine, he did what most men would do – ignored it. But when it happened a few more times he started to get a little worried.
He spoke to his wife and she persuaded him to make an appointment with his GP at Medcare.
It was lucky she did as after examining him the Medcare doctor was concerned and referred Terry to an oncologist at a private hospital.
After an ultrasound and biopsy Terry was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
At 58, Terry was quite young to get the disease. He later found out that his father had suffered the same type of cancer and so had one of his brothers. The disease often runs in families.
Terry had his prostate removed before the cancer spread, and is living proof of the importance of consulting your doctor at the first sign something could be wrong.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Each year around 36,000 men are diagnosed with the disease in the UK – that’s about 25 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers.
It can show itself, as it did with Terry, with blood in the urine. Or the first sign may be urinary difficulties such as urinating more frequently, having to rush to the toilet, having difficulty starting to urinate, taking a long time urinating, having a weak flow or a feeling that the bladder has not emptied fully, or general malaise.
These signs don’t definitely mean cancer and can indicate an enlargement of the prostate gland – a common occurrence in older men.
But symptoms should never be ignored, and medical advice should always be sought.
The good news about a prostate cancer diagnosis – if cancer can ever be seen as good news – is that it can be a very slow developing cancer and many older men live with it for years or even decades without symptoms or the need for treatment.
Prostate cancer early diagnosis
But early diagnosis and monitoring are still important because if the disease is allowed to spread to other parts of the body, typically the bones, it is fatal.
While there is no definitive screening for prostate cancer, a prostate specific antigen test (PSA test), together with a questionnaire and reviewing symptoms can provide a useful early warning.
Increased PSA levels in the blood indicate prostate cancer may be present and can help a doctor to decide if further diagnostic testing is required.
For some, the test proves a lifesaver. George Bingham was on holiday in Spain when he heard Medcare was offering PSA tests. Although it was rather an unusual tourist activity, he decided to get checked out.
He had the simple blood test and got on with enjoying the rest of his holiday.
When the results showed he had high levels of PSA, George was back in the UK.
The Medcare doctor phoned him immediately and faxed through the results for him to take to his GP.
He was quickly referred to a urologist, getting a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
“I am so glad I went for that test,” says George. “If I hadn’t, I may not have known for a lot longer and the outcome could have been very different.
“And even though I was only on holiday when I had the test, the Medcare GP was great. She helped me through the diagnosis and made it clear she was there to answer all my questions about treatment options.”
There are a number of treatments available once a diagnosis is made, including removing the prostate, hormone therapy and radiotherapy. Which is chosen depends on the individual and the stage of the cancer. But, as with all cancers, early diagnosis is the best chance of beating the disease.
George says he would strongly urge all men over 50 to consider regular screening – a view shared by the Medcare doctor, who has seen many men receive valuable early diagnosis and life-saving intervention for prostate cancer after screening, including PSA testing and health reviews.
But it is another of Medcare’s patients diagnosed with prostate cancer, John Dwyer, who perhaps put it best when he urged other men to go for screening.
“Given my own experience and those of close friends, I would strongly suggest that all of us of an age should take advantage of the test and the support of the Medcare team,” he said.
“You do not have to follow my example, but I would strongly recommend it. This is not a rehearsal; it is a one act play.”
Life is too valuable not to take your health seriously, so never ignore symptoms and take advantage of all health screening tests on offer.