Don’t let Covid-19 put you off getting your prostate checked for cancer – Steve Cardownie

Steve Cardownie thanks his lucky stars that he got a test for prostate cancer that led to the disease being caught early.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 7:30 am
Early diagnosis of prostate cancer can save lives and all men over 40 are entitled to request a PSA blood test (Picture: John Devlin)
Early diagnosis of prostate cancer can save lives and all men over 40 are entitled to request a PSA blood test (Picture: John Devlin)

More than 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, which amounts to 129 every day. Of this number more than 11,500 will die, that’s one every 45 minutes. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime – and Covid-19 will make matters even worse.

The charity, Prostate Cancer UK, has estimated that 27,000 fewer men have been referred to hospital by their GPs than usual due to the pandemic, which means that thousands more men now have a higher risk of suffering from prostate cancer that has not yet been diagnosed.

The charity’s website informs us: “The prostate is a gland. It is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate’s main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.”

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Two years ago I was advised by a friend of mine to ask my GP for a blood test to check my Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level as a raised level can be an indication of prostate cancer, and despite not having any of the “look out for” symptoms I duly did so. Lo and behold my PSA level was higher than it should have been and a subsequent biopsy confirmed that it was indeed caused by a cancerous tumour for which I have been receiving the treatment I chose that suited me best.

Prostate Cancer UK has responded to the latest additional threat by advising that as most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, it’s important not to wait until it is noticed that something is wrong and that those most at risk because they are over 50 or they are black or with a family history should call their GP to ask about the pros and cons of a PSA blood test.

However, if insisted upon, all men over the age of 40 are entitled to one. I was warned that it may provide a false result but I requested one in any case and I thank my lucky stars that my insistence resulted in the cancer being diagnosed early.

It is also worth noting that Prostate Cancer UK has released an online tool where men can check their risk of developing the disease which, given Covid-19 and the difficulties in accessing medical advice, provides a welcome reference point.

In Scotland more than 26,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer – with 3000 being diagnosed with the disease every year – and every year around 900 will die. Dire statistics, but all is not lost. It is treatable, especially if diagnosed early, but as some prostate cancer grows too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long a person lives, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment.

However some prostate cancer grows quickly and can spread, which is more likely to cause problems and requires treatment to deal with it and prevent it from spreading further.

Men who are 40-plus really should pay attention and take steps to check if their prostate is healthy and should not allow Covid-19 to put them off, whether through concern over contracting the virus by attending a hospital (extremely unlikely) or by difficulties in seeing their GP.

It is important that we limit the Covid-19 consequences on other medical treatments as much as we possibly can and the early diagnosis of cancer and its subsequent treatment is one way of helping to ensure this.

I, for one, will continue to advise people to do so and I am sorry to disappoint the individual who previously posted that he hoped that I suffered “a long and painful death” but my treatment, so far, appears to be working!

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