This week we have a guest blogger. Patrick Taggart, long term supporter of Prostate Cancer UK and veteran Mo Bro who has a personal experience of prostate cancer, talks about his Movember journey.
Friends and acquaintances are giving me funny looks. Nothing new there, but this time at least it’s all in a good cause. My philtrum is getting fuzzy. In other words, I’m growing a moustache for Movember. I’m being joined by Mo Bros (and Mo Sistas) all over the world in a campaign to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate and testicular cancers.
Men are notoriously reluctant to address important health issues. Back in 2004 I, like many men, was not in the habit of visiting my GP. In fact, I didn’t even know his name. Only after I had accumulated an impressive array of ailments – among them a dodgy back, sore knees and difficulty sleeping because of the need to keep getting up to pee – did I get round to visiting him. My first surprise, when I walked in, was that ‘he’ was a ‘she’ – which pretty much summed up how up to speed I was with my health care arrangements! My second surprise was that she was dismissive of most of my ailments but was very interested in my frequent night-time visits to the loo. She referred me to a urologist. Had she not done so, my prostate cancer might have gone undiagnosed for a long time.
Movember is doing a wonderful job of raising the profile of prostate and testicular cancers in the media. On an inter-personal level, the sprouting of a moustache on a normally fuzz-free face provides a great opener for a conversation about men’s health. I hope that, as a result of Movember, more men with symptoms of prostate trouble will understand the significance of those symptoms and visit their GP without delay.
Movember also raises much-needed funds. A large proportion of these funds will go towards research. As someone who has lived through diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer, the need for research is very obvious to me.
Despite the prompt action of my GP in 2004 my cancer evaded detection until 2009. I have no complaints about my urologist. He monitored my rising PSA closely and carried out three prostate biopsies, all without detecting the tumour. It was only after the third negative biopsy, with my PSA still rising, that he found the tumour by means of a trans-urethral resection (TURP) of the prostate.
Thankfully, I appear to be cancer-free today, but some men aren’t so lucky; a delayed diagnosis could mean a shortened life! Research to improve diagnostic methods is vital.
After diagnosis, my treatment consisted of a radical prostatectomy in 2009 followed by salvage radiotherapy in early 2011. The treatments were successful, but I did not emerge unscathed. It’s wonderful to be alive but, given the choice, I would – of course – prefer not to have been left with urinary, bowel and sexual problems. There are novel treatments promising fewer side-effects, but more research is needed to confirm their long-term efficacy. Better diagnostics and finding effective treatments with fewer side-effects are just two of many priority research areas.
My moustache is almost in full bloom but, sadly, I look nothing like Tom Selleck and women are not throwing themselves at me. I knew I would look completely ridiculous, having taken part in Movember last year. But looking ridiculous is a small price to pay for being able to participate in such a worthwhile campaign.