Prostate cancer is not just an old man's disease
MY HEALTH EXPERIENCE:What do I tell my wife, we only found out she is pregnant?
‘FIVE YEARS ago my mum died from kidney cancer. She had a cough for a few weeks and when she went to have it checked out, she discovered she had a tumour. It was the same week we found out that my wife, Lorraine, was pregnant with our first child. Mum died five days after Jack was born. Since then I have made a point of getting checked out every so often.
Last October, I saw a special offer on full health screening so decided to have one done. The doctor highlighted that my PSA (prostate specific antigen) reading was high at 3.8 and said it was most likely to be an infection, so I should come back in six months for a re-test.
But in January, my PSA measurement popped into my head, and I made an appointment with my GP to get his opinion. He also said it was most likely to be an infection as there was a very low incidence of prostate cancer in men under 50.
He prescribed antibiotics and when I re-tested four weeks later my reading had reduced to 2.9, so I stopped worrying. But a month later I had another blood test and it went up to 3.98.
So I was referred to consultant urologist David Galvin for a physical exam and a biopsy. The results came back two weeks later and I went alone as I wasn’t expecting to hear any bad news.
As I was waiting to get the result, I took a deep breath and held it; then I heard the words: “Very unexpectedly, something has shown up.” I released all the air inside me, put my hand on my forehead and began rubbing vigorously. My body immediately began to shake all over. I was transported back to the day we were told my mum had cancer.
The first thing I said was, “What do I tell my wife, we only found out she is pregnant?” Once you hear the word cancer, all sorts go through your head, most notably, am I going to die soon?
After the initial shock the urologist explained that my cancer had shown up in four of the 12 samples taken from my prostate and it was a Gleeson 6 type, which was less aggressive. I calmed down a little and decided that I was going to fight this tooth and nail.
We then discussed options and I nearly jumped out of my seat saying – “Just get it out, I don’t care what it takes.”
For someone my age, an operation was the best route because if you receive radiation therapy and the cancer returns, surgery is no longer an option.
So it was agreed that I should have a radical prostatectomy either as open nerve sparing surgery or laparoscopy. I was very young to have open surgery and when I discovered it came with a high risk of prolonged penile dysfunction and incontinence, it was very sobering.
I then investigated laparoscopic surgery which, although it was done in Ireland, it was very specialised. Then one of the girls I work with sent me a blog of Tony Fenton talking about his prostate surgery in Leipzig, Germany. I contacted him and he told me to get myself to Leipzig Hospital where a technique called endoscopic extraperitoneal radical prostatectomy had been developed by Prof Jens-Uwe Stolzenburg.