Prostate cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye discusses symptoms
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When 61-year-old Angus Watson visited his doctor in 2020 it wasn’t to check for prostate cancer but because he had signs of a hernia. But Watson says he was “fortunate” to have an inquisitive GP who asked whether he had a family history of prostate cancer – which he indeed did have – and advised him to take a test. When the first test showed nothing abnormal, he referred him for more tests. In the end, a biopsy revealed cancerous cells sitting in his prostate. But because he caught it early, it was far more treatable.
Watson was first advised to take a PSA – prostate-specific antigen – test by his doctor which revealed normal amounts of the substance in his blood. High amounts of PSA would have indicated damage to his prostate.
But his persistent doctor sent him for further screening. In the end, he received his biopsy at Dorchester hospital in early 2021.
Watson said: “I was very fortunate that I had a doctor who listened and had the time to pay attention to me, rather than pushing me out the door and instead, monitoring my prostate levels.
”Although the biopsy detected cancer cells, the cells were restricted to inside the prostate and he was diagnosed with stage two prostate cancer.
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He added: “Because I had no symptoms, if I hadn’t gone to the doctor with my hernia in 2020, it struck me that I could have had much more aggressive prostate cancer.
“But I caught it early.
“My message to men is that you don’t necessarily need to have symptoms to get checked.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men but also one of the hardest to detect.
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Symptoms of the disease often only occur until the cancer is so large it causes peeing problems by putting pressure on the urethra.
However, as was the case with Watson, the disease is possible to detect early through a biopsy to test parts of the prostate tissue for cancer, or a PSA test.
Later down the line, Watson was referred to a consultant who was given a focal therapy called brachytherapy.
This wouldn’t have been available to him if he hadn’t detected the cancer early as focal therapy only works for localised cancer cells.
The alternative would have been a prostatectomy – the removal of the prostate.
This would have been a burdensome procedure, risking the onset of erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
Because of his ordeal and the fact he saved himself from more burdensome therapy, Watson believes men can save the NHS massive resources by getting checked early.
“We’re seeing on TV all the time the pressures NHS staff are under. And if men, like me, haven’t got any symptoms, it’s easy to think that there are other people who are a much higher priority, and to not ‘bother’ healthcare professionals.
“But all we’re doing is delaying a much larger challenge for the NHS because the longer men leave it, the more delayed and aggressive cancer can become, which in turn, will be a much bigger and expensive challenge to solve long term.”
The possible symptoms of prostate cancer, according to the NHS, can include:
- Difficulty urinating (hesitancy)
- Needing to pee more frequently
- Weak flow
- Blood in urine and semen
- Needing to rush to the toilet.
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