Prostate cancer: I'm a living example of why men of a certain age should get their prostate checked – Steve Cardownie

When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, I resolved not to bore readers of this column with a blow-by-blow account of my treatment.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 4:55 am
A consultant clinical oncologist examines a scan showing inside the body of a 65-year-old man diagnosed with prostate cancer (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)

Now, a couple of years on, I have decided to return to the subject. Prompted by the Covid-19 measures that have been taken by the government and their knock-on effect on GP appointments, I wanted to reinforce my previous message about the importance of men over 50 years old arranging for checks on the health of their prostate.

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in March of this year, “the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated access problems in general practice and patients have reported finding it difficult to book appointments and access treatment, a report by Healthwatch has found. The patient watchdog said that GPs must prioritise telling patients that they are open to face-to-face appointments wherever possible.

"Healthwatch found that while remote appointments were more convenient for some patients, they did not meet everyone’s needs with some patients left ‘worried that their health problems will not be accurately diagnosed.’"

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The BMJ has alerted GPs to this issue and there are signs that appointments at surgeries are picking up which is crucial for the diagnosis of potential prostrate problems as a physical exam or a blood test is required, sometimes both.

Prostate Cancer UK has issued “consensus guidelines” two of which state “the government and health organisations, with help from health professionals and charities, should make sure men know about their risk of prostate cancer, and about general prostate health” and “all men should be able to have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test if they are over 50. Men who have a higher risk of prostate cancer should be able to have a PSA test if they are over 45”.

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This test measures the amount of PSA, a protein produced by normal cells in the prostate and also by prostate cancer cells, in your blood.

It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA and it rises slightly as you get older and your prostate gets bigger. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but not necessarily cancer.

Prostate Scotland records that “prostate cancer can affect one in ten men in Scotland and is the most common cancer amongst men in Scotland. Whilst the number of people diagnosed with prostate cancer in Scotland is increasing, so have survival rates, especially when symptoms have been recognised, an early diagnosis made and treatment started. Worryingly though, not all men will have symptoms in the early stages.”

In my case I did not have any symptoms which may have indicated that I might have a problem and only requested a PSA test on the advice of a friend who was undergoing prostate cancer treatment. The blood test showed that I had a raised level of PSA and a biopsy at the Western General followed which established that I indeed had prostate cancer.

After receiving the form of treatment that I thought best suited me, the prospects are looking good and I am optimistic about what the future holds.

If any of the above applies – get it checked.

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