Steve Cardownie: Men – get a prostate test before it’s too late

Don't let embarrassment put you off getting tested for prostate cancer. Picture: John Devlin
Don't let embarrassment put you off getting tested for prostate cancer. Picture: John Devlin
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Some time ago I took the liberty of using this column to alert men to the issue of prostate cancer, it’s ­detection and possible cure. Please forgive me if this column contains some repetition of the points that I made then but the importance of this matter cannot be understated

It was when I was having a ­routine blood test at my doctor’s surgery that I asked about my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) reading as a friend of mine, who was diagnosed with ­prostate ­cancer, had advised me to do.

The blood test, which measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood, was sent to the laboratory for analysis and a level of 9.1 was detected. As 4.0 would be the norm and mine was considerably higher than that I was referred to the Western General ­Hospital for a biopsy which confirmed that I indeed had prostate cancer. I was then invited to consider the form of treatment that I determined would be best for me. I should point out that I did not display any symptoms whatsoever and had I not asked for a PSA level would have been blissfully unaware to this day that anything was amiss.

Although I had never been offered an exam by a GP, I am aware that far too many men feel embarrassed at the prospect and do not to ask for one, potentially putting their lives at risk.

However, the ­guidance issued to GPs allows men aged 40-plus the right to have their PSA levels analysed if, after talking it over with the doctor, they choose to exercise that right. I now had to discuss with medical practitioners the treatments on offer and conduct some methodical research on the internet before deciding which was best for me.

I was put in touch with the ­Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate ­Cancer Support Group (you can call them on 07933 260066 or email elpcsg@gmail.com) where I spoke to a couple of people who had already had treatment, allowing me to get first-hand testimony about processes and potential side-effects which proved invaluable.

The week before last I attended the Western General Hospital to undergo the treatment that I had plumped for – brachytherapy. This is a form of radiotherapy where a sealed radiation source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment which for me entailed the placing of 90 radioactive seeds in my prostate which over a matter of time are expected to kill off the tumour. They die off themselves and are left where they are as they do not cause any harm.

So there I was dressed in my goony and ready to go and after several meetings with the extremely helpful staff who were set to carry out the operation I was wheeled into the theatre and knocked out cold for two hours by the anaesthetist (I could have done with him at Tynecastle Park last Saturday) and later awoke as I was being transferred to the recovery room.

The whole process was painless and carried out with the utmost care and understanding by the staff, who displayed a level of professionalism second to none and to whom I will be eternally grateful.

The purpose of this piece is not to bore the reader senseless with accounts of my experience – and if I have done so please forgive me – but to reinforce my plea to readers to consider taking such a test themselves or to implore a relative or friend who falls into the 40-plus male category to do so. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer and undergoing treatment all I have to do now is sit and wait for a successful outcome – which is a damn sight better than to sit and wait for the Grim Reaper to come knocking at my door.