In last week’s column, I devoted most of the space to the issue of prostate cancer and how important it is for men aged over 50 to get theirs checked by their GP or a blood test to determine their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, which may lead to a biopsy if the reading is abnormally high.
Since then the author and broadcaster Stephen Fry has revealed that he had undergone surgery to remove lymph nodes from his prostate.
He had gone to his doctor for a flu jab when it was suggested that he have a general check-up which revealed that his PSA level was high. That led to an MRI scan and a biopsy which confirmed he had prostate cancer. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and Fry said: “I felt my life was saved by early intervention so I would urge any of you men of a certain age to get your PSA levels checked.”
Another development was that I received an e-mail from Charlie Hogg, of the Edinburgh and Lothian Prostate Cancer Support Group, thanking me for highlighting the issue and asking me to consider a follow-up column to shed some light on the work that they do and I am delighted to be able to do so.
Charlie pointed out that around 2,500 men a year in Scotland are diagnosed with prostate cancer so the need for support groups is greater than ever.
The group provides a vital link between newly diagnosed men and the health service.
It runs a very successful “buddy” programme that links up those men who have been recently diagnosed with group members to help them share their recent experience of various treatments and how they impacted on their life.
Men with prostate cancer can be offered a range of treatments and by speaking to group members they become more aware of what is involved, which can help them decide which treatment is more suited to them.
This man-to-man talk has proven to be successful in clearing up issues which are not always included in discussions at the clinic and provides the clarity required to help men come to terms with what they can expect at this stressful time of their lives.
The support group is conscious that it can often prove difficult for men seek the support and information they need, so it encourages men who have been newly diagnosed to go along to one of their meetings, which are held in Livingston and Edinburgh, where they can find out how to get this extra “buddy” help that can make a real difference to how they might deal with the situation.
As for me, I was well taken care of by the staff at the Western General Hospital’s department of urology where I underwent my biopsy.
Everything was explained to me by Alasdair, who carried out the procedure and answered all the questions I posed.
The staff were extremely courteous and informal, which helped me to relax and the biopsy was then efficiently performed all within the short time I was there.
Painful? Not at all! Slightly uncomfortable? A wee bit! Was it worth it? Absolutely!
It only takes a discussion with your GP to determine whether or not further action is necessary so what are you waiting for?
I know that my blood test did indicate that my PSA level was higher than it should be and a biopsy was recommended, which identified a potential problem. One more week and I will know the results.
If you are male and are aged 50 or over you should have your prostate checked. You and your loved ones have too much to lose not to!