I was probably very good with having my yearly routine blood test. Fortunately my doctor included the PSA test every time. I know there are many doctors who do not include this. If my doctor had not included the PSA, I have no doubt I would not be here today.
At age 47, my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) result was slightly high for my age. My fantastic doctor referred me to a urologist where I had PSA tests every six months. Every test, the PSA was slowly increasing, so it was just a case of monitoring to look for any sharp increases. I have since learnt that family history is so important. If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you have an increased risk of developing it and therefore you need to be more vigilant with your PSA tests. My father and older brothers have not had it, so I thought there was a good chance I would be OK.
The scary thing is I had no symptoms whatsoever. I was healthy and fit. I ran three to four times every week. I have since learnt that there are no symptoms for the early stages.
Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with having an extremely aggressive tumour. The tumour is given a Gleason score to grade the cancer. Mine was a nine, which is nearly the highest and put me in a high-risk category of it spreading to other areas. I was told that I needed surgery urgently to remove the prostate, so I underwent a radical prostatectomy.
Recovery took about six weeks following surgery. The only concern was that the tumour had spread to just outside the prostate, so there was a chance cancer cells might have spread. I was then monitored by having a PSA test every three months. For over twelve months, the PSA was undetectable. This is the result you want – but over the next six-month period, the PSA slowly began to increase concerningly.
As I was in the high-risk category of the cancer returning, I was recommended for radiation and hormone treatment (HDT) over two years. Starting in January 2022, I did 38 treatments of radiation over two months as well as having a hormone injection every month for six months. In August, I moved to the next stage of having only three hormone injections over 18 months. This will take me to August this year for my last injection. The worst has been the hot flushes, tiredness and overall just not being yourself. So I have a long way to go, but I will keep fighting and staying positive to overcome this nasty disease.
My message to men is simple: have the PSA test. It is just a blood test, not hard. Start having them in your forties. It provides a baseline so you can measure if there is any sharp increase when you have the yearly test. You should be having full blood tests every year anyway. Also, if the doctor says no, you are too young, say, “No I want this test included.” Early detection is vital. As I said earlier, if I did not have the PSA test, I would not be here, and I only have to look at my two beautiful kids and my wonderful wife to know that I am so lucky I did. Having support during this stressful time is so important. I am lucky to have a supportive family and friends. A lot of men do not have this, but sometimes it can be good to reach out for help. I know it is hard for some men to open up and talk, especially with this condition, but I discovered that there is fantastic help available in our local community. The Eltham Prostate Information and Support Group has been running for 18 years and it offers support for not only the man but for their partner, family, friends and to anyone wanting to know a little bit more about prostate cancer.