Prostate cancer affects almost 3 500 men in Ireland each year – that's one of seven men diagnosed with this disease every year. But even if this data is alarming, it is a very curative form of cancer, especially if it is detected early.
During the month of November, the Movember campaign aims to encourage men to report to their doctors if they are afraid of any aspect of their health, because early treatment of conditions such as prostate cancer can have a very positive result.
Tom Hope is living proof, because he regularly checked regularly that he has prostate cancer and is now under surveillance to make sure he is under control.
"In 2009, I visited my doctor every year to check blood pressure and took blood samples that I assumed were part of a regular annual check," says 71-year-old. "But about a week later, he contacted me to say there were some high blood tests, and I wanted to visit the urologist to have them checked.
"At this stage, I did not realize what the readings were, or what they could mean, but I went to a urologist who explained what the prostate was, what function he was performing and what PSA (Prostatic Specific Antigens) was, a jump in PSA values of 2 , 9 to 4.5, my doctor was concerned, and it felt like I should undergo a biopsy to explain the cause of the PSA's rise, then I was asked to come back to the urologist and bring me the woman with me. "
Only at that time did fourteen fathers expect to see that they had cancer and had to make difficult decisions about whether or not they had any treatment, which could have side effects.
"During my visit, the counselor told me I had a small prostate cancer," says Meath. "It was a complete shock because I had no symptoms or a problem with my urinary function and I was given the option of a surgical procedure to remove the prostate (which carries the risk of incontinence) or active monitoring, which included daily blood tests for six months to monitor my PSA and attend my urologist every six months and get a digital rectal examination (DRE) to track the cancer.
"I talked about my wife and I decided to follow up on active surveillance because I did not want to risk incontinence. If I decided to change the situation if it was absolutely necessary, we could decide for the surgery later, and I also explained the decision for my three adult children.
"But the most demanding question was the admission that I had prostate cancer – I did not, I did not drink, did not smoke and I was constantly training, but it was unlikely to cause me any trouble or kill me."
Kevin O'Hagan, Director of Cancer Prevention of the Irish Cancer Society, says most men will not die from this disease, but it is still important to be alert.
"Most prostate cancers occur when they are early, many are slowly growing, and symptoms do not have to happen for many years if they occur at all – and people with early prostate cancer probably have no symptoms," he says.
"Since early prostate cancer usually does not cause any symptoms, it is often detected by regular checkups. If you are over 50 years of age, you should examine your doctor every year, if you have a family history, you should have regular control because your GP check the possibility of prostate cancer if you have no symptoms Control should include a digital prostate rectal examination and a special blood test called a PSA blood test.
"Even though there are many people living with prostate cancer, most men do not die – and in most cases they can cure or keep them under control."
The primary treatments for prostate cancer are active monitoring, radiotherapy of external beams, hormonal therapy, brachytherapy, surgery, chemotherapy and attentive waiting – and each case is individual.
"The best treatment depends on a number of things like the degree and quality of your cancer (how much your cancer has spread and how fast it grows), any symptoms that you have, overall health, your age and personal preferences," says the expert. "And while improving treatment, five years of survival for prostate cancer is now over 90 percent.
"While bladder prostate symptoms may be a sign of prostate cancer, they are more often caused by harmless prostate enlargement, which is common as you are older."
Prostate cancer appeared to Hope, because he was wary of being routinely examined. He was also diagnosed with malignant skin melanoma, which was caught and treated early for the same reason.
Today he is well and healthy and encourages other men to realize their body and seek help if something is concerned. And also attend routine examinations and find out about healthcare available to everyone as much as possible.
"My oncologist noted that I am lucky to have skin cancer detected early because it is only when cancer has spread to other parts of the body that have been identified," says Tom, who went on to become Chief Financial Officer of Barnardo in 2013 "Over the years I have found great satisfaction and support in meeting and interviewing other men who have been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer and who, after diagnosis, have lived normally for 15 years or more.
"Every year I take part in conferences of ICC survivors to get to know the treatment options, so if I decide to treat, I'm fully aware of the options available.In May 2013, I became part of my support services and talked to patients, who were retired from the ICS Helpdesk or the Narcissus Centers. In 2014, I joined the Men Against Cancer (MAC) group, a support group for men diagnosed with prostate cancer and part of their committee.
"I'm also a member of several other committees, and now, nine years later, two more biopsies that both appeared clearly and my PSA ranged between 2.7 and 7.3, so I'm in good health due to early detection."
FACTBOX: Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer occurs when normal cells in the prostate gland change and grow to form a number of cells called tumors.
⬤ Early prostate cancer causes no symptoms. Usually it only causes symptoms when it grows large enough to disrupt your bladder or to compress the urine drain tube, causing urinary problems.
⬤ These symptoms are called symptoms of prostate cancer and include slow flow of urine, difficulty in initiating or stopping flow, frequent urination, especially at night, urination pain and feeling of complete bladder emptying.
In Ireland, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men after skin cancer.
⬤ More than 3300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. This means that one of seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives.
Uncommon symptoms include lower back pain, hips or thighs, difficulty in maintaining erection, blood in urine or sperm.
⬤ It is important to see your doctor if you have any concerns or have any of these symptoms to discuss and evaluate.
⬤ For more information, visit Cancer Cancer or contact the 1800 200 700 Cancer Free Line, [email protected], or go to one of the nationwide 13 Narcissus Centers in Hospitals.
⬤ Movember partners with the Irish Cancer Society and are the main contributor to their prostate cancer programs. Resources help provide information, support and care to those affected by prostate cancer, as well as the funding of major cancer research.
⬤ Join movember.com
Health and life