Cancer symptoms: signs of prostate cancer include urinating more than usual

Cancer symptoms: signs of prostate cancer include urinating more than usual

Brian Cameron, 67, of Torridge, had his life turned upside down after seeing his GP about his minor symptoms in September 2020. The quick-thinking doctor ordered an urgent scan which revealed a tumor on Brian’s prostate , a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. Brian, a retired motor mechanic and gardener, said: “The only symptoms he had was urinating more during the day. The doctors were monitoring my PSA level anyway because of my family history.”

The PSA test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. The test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood.

Brian’s father had stomach cancer, mother had bowel and breast cancer, and grandmother had breast cancer, so the prospect of cancer was uppermost in his mind.

“We got a new doctor on my surgery and I was talking to her about back pain and she told me to get a scan right away. They found nothing, but the consultant was not happy and sent me for a biopsy,” Brian explained.

“I wasn’t really worried at this point because I didn’t think they would find anything. When they called me to tell me I had cancer it hit me like a bomb.”

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In the months that followed, Brian struggled. “The NHS has been very, very good, I don’t have any problems with them, until the treatment came along.”

After being under “active surveillance” for 12 months, it was discovered that Brian’s cancer had started to grow and it was time to see what could be done.

The only treatment options offered to him on the NHS were radiotherapy and a radical prostatectomy, both of which carry the potential for side effects, including incontinence.

So Brian and his wife Carol looked at other options, eventually opting for proton therapy, a type of radiation therapy that uses the precision of a pencil tip to target cancer cells without affecting surrounding healthy tissue, hoping to reduce side effects.

The couple were delighted when they discovered the Rutherford Center in Newport, South Wales, which could offer the treatment privately.

But Brian was dealt a devastating blow when, just two weeks before it began, he was informed that the company was going into liquidation and that he could no longer continue with his treatment plan.

He said “I had had a spacer [a device designed to reduce side effects] but I received a phone call at lunchtime to say that they could not continue with the treatment.

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“It was worse than finding out I had cancer. I had understood everything and we had a plan, then the rug was pulled out from under my feet. That hit hard.”

In a race against time to find alternatives, Brian and his wife contacted Proton Therapy UK who can treat UK patients privately through a center in Prague, Czech Republic.

Brian said: “The spacers only last three to six months and had already been in place for a fortnight.

“The Prague team needed my scans and medical records and the Rutherford team was wonderful. They had everything set up for us and they were excellent. His staff were just as upset as we were.”

Brian and his wife flew to Prague soon after and stayed for just over three weeks, receiving five treatment fractions at their state-of-the-art facility.

He said: “Prague is a lovely city and if anyone asks me I would say go. I found it very personal. The staff really got to know me.

“We left early because we were anxious about the flight situation and we stayed in an apartment on the outskirts of the old town.”

Brian is now back at his home in the town of Petrockstow and apart from some minor side effects he is feeling fine.

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He added: “I had a bit of a burning sensation after the treatment, but now it is all going down. I’m in the correct way.

“I have to see my own doctor and then I’ll have a blood test in three months.”

Reflecting on the treatment options offered to him, which concerned him, Brian said: “The team in Prague told me to go home and get on with my life. I’m back home, I don’t have a catheter and I’m in total control of everything.

“The NHS offered me surgery or radiotherapy and that was it. The side effects could have been life changing.

“I understand that they don’t have the funds for everything, but they should still say that proton therapy is a treatment that works very well.

“We are not rich people by any means, but we were lucky to have left a legacy for ourselves. Your health is your wealth.”

Urging all men to pay attention to symptoms and get tested if they have any concerns, Brian said, “There are men out there who live with it and have no idea.”

There are currently two proton therapy centers in England, one in Manchester and one in London, but neither treats prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer: everything you need to know

According to Mr. Petr Holy, consultant urological surgeon, prostate cancer affects one in eight men.

“In the early stages, prostate cancer usually has no symptoms, so it is very important to know your own risk factor.

“Age is a risk factor, as the condition primarily affects men over the age of 50. A family history of the condition may also put you at higher risk.

“If you have any concerns, it’s very important to speak to your GP, who can discuss your risk factor, any symptoms you may be experiencing and what to do next.”

While there is no national prostate cancer screening service, men can request a PSA test from their GP, which measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood and can be an indicator of changes in the prostate.

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