Topic: Health Issues
This week, 21st to 27th March 2005, is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in this country. However, many men do not know where their prostate gland is or what it does. For those who don't, the gland is located at the base of the bladder surrounding the urethra and it produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and increases further if your father, uncle or brother has the disease. Nearly 10,000 men die from this disease every year so, if you experience any problems with urinating or find blood in your urine (like my husband did), you should see your doctor immediately.
It is a fact that ALL men, if they live long enough, will get prostate cancer. Many do not know they have it and many never have any serious symptoms. So, if you are in your eighties or nineties, the odds are that it will not kill you. However, if you get problems in your forties or fifties, DON'T IGNORE IT, it will not go away.
My husband first found blood in his urine in November 2003. The doctor found his prostate to be slightly enlarged (normal for his age) and sent him for a routine blood test to measure his PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). This measured 13, so the next stage was x-rays, ultra-sound and a cystoscopy at the end of February 2004 (which showed some small kidney stones) and also a CT scan in March to investigate a possible lump on the liver, which turned out to be fat! The cystoscopy (when they pass a little tube with a light through the urethra) is a little unpleasant! Apart from feeling embarrassed, it is a bit uncomfortable and burns when you have to go to the loo for a few hours afterwards. However, my husband said that he could see the inside of his bladder on the monitor, which was very interesting! And it confirmed that his bladder was healthy. The next stage was a biopsy (more discomfort) of the prostate gland and that confirmed that he did have prostate cancer.
Last September, his PSA count had risen one to 14, last month it was 17. If it stays around this level, he will continue with his "watchful waiting". As he is in his seventies, the consultants in this country do not recommend having a prostatectomy (removal of the protate). His options are conformal radiotherapy or wait and see. Unfortunately, radiotherapy can have some potentially very unpleasant side effects. So he chose not to have it done, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, especially as he is not experiencing any real problems at the moment. He gets up two or three times a night, has to go to the loo twice within ten minutes as a precaution if we are going out - nothing he can't live with. In the meantime, medical research is advancing, hopefully, at a much faster rate than his cancer.