Saturday 7 December 2013

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Ignorance is Cancer's biggest friend

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life.  For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 51 years old and in October 2011 I  had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising,  back up to 4.0, in other words the downward trend has stopped. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture? 

When I started this series on living with Prostate Cancer, I made a conscious decision to completely avoid mixing this blog with my coverage of Barnet politics. Thus far I have managed, but today the two issues collided with a rather spectacular bang. One of our local politicians, who I have had a few disagreements with over the years ( I am not going to grind that axe here) posted a message to me on Twitter. I am not going to go into the morality of what he said or whether it is acceptable to say such things. What I think is really important is to use the opportunity to correct a few myths and also to explain why getting regular PSA tests is vital. So here is the comment.

Lets put to one side any feelings as to the sentiments expressed and any emotional response to it. I'm a big boy and it ain't sticks and stones. You see there is a huge misconception in his understanding of the situation. Regular readers of this series of blogs will know that I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer in November 2011. as a result of a high PSA reading. I had the PSA test as part of a general screening, not due to any symptoms or problems. Since then, I've been on a regime of active surveillance. This means regular PSA tests and an annual biopsy. The purpose of this is not for me to die of Prostate cancer, but to live3 with it and hopefully die of something else. It is estimated that one in five men in the UK is in my position, but most don't know. Sadly the people who succumb are not the people like me who have the opportunity to nip it in the bud. The ones who die find out when there are symptoms. Like many cancers, when you start to realise you have Prostate Cancer due to symptoms, it is generally far more difficult to treat and far more likely to be fatal.

Having a diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer as a result of a PSA test  is not a death sentence. It is an opportunity to take action to live. This is why I use every opportunity to promote the message that if you are around 50 years old and male, then you should get a PSA test. I consider myself extremely lucky. By receiving an early warning, I have had the opportunity to make lifestyle changes and also to make choices as to when I should have surgery.

On reading the above comment, I found it rather sad that in the mind of the author, a diagnosis of prostate cancer is a death sentence. If you think about it logically, if you have that attitude to cancer, you would never bother to have a PSA test, because it won't make any difference. Nothing could be further from the truth. A PSA test could save your life. There are all manner of treatments and all sorts of lifestyle changes which can improve your chances. If you have been diagnosed with Prostate cancer, then there are many things you might wish to consider which will make your journey through life with cancer more palatable.

An example is the issue of biopsies. I have had two, one under local anaesthetic and one under general. The first was very traumatic and unpleasant, the second was, by comparison, a doddle. I didn't even know you could have a general anaesthetic when I had the first one and no one told me it would be traumatic. The medical establishment in the UK really don't care about this issue. I think many men simply don't go back after the experience. I am pretty tough, but I certainly didn't want to.

Cancer is the biggest killer in the UK. Most people don't know what the disease is, what causes it or why some people get it and others don't. If I asked you "what causes cancer", what would you say? Well the correct answer is that cancer is caused by genetic mutation in our bodies cells. Things like smoking, stress, food additives, pesticide residues have been shown to promote cell mutation, causing the changes in cells that make them become cancerous. The less you expose yourself to these agents (known as carcinogens), the less likely you are to get cancer. If like me, you are on the cancer treadmill, but with a low grade, non agressive cancer, it is even more important to avoid these substances, as they will torn the relatively begning cancer cells in my body to mutate into far more deadly versions. Once you understand this process, you can then make decisions as to what lifestyle changes you should make.

My advice to everyone would be to cut out as many cancer inducing agents as possible and replace them with alternatives that are either neutral or actually inhibit cancer. For instance, I now drink green tea without milk, as this is shown to be beneficial. I have replaced fizzy sugary drinks with pomegranite juice. We buy organic vegetables as they a contain no pesticide residues. Whilst none of this comes with a guarantee, it increases my chances of avoiding a more agressive form of the disease. As someone who likes the odd flutter, I know that playing the odds is always the best way to win. Odd as it may seem with such a comment, in some ways I am thankful that it was put there. Anything which gives me the opportunity to raise awareness of the need for Prostate screening must be welcomed. My advice is to always seek the positives from even the most negative actions. When you learn any form of self defence technique, they always tell you to use your opponents strengths against them. Cancer uses our ignorance as its greatest strength. Please don't fall into that trap.


Dave-ros said...

Wow, classic Brian Coleman there. I know you have a little trouble with spelling, but his Freudian slip, "prostrate cancer", is hilarious -- presumably he made this mistake he's one of those politicians who expects us peasants to prostrate ourselves before his magnificence!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

You suggest that men aged 50 should be tested regularly. It would be better to start testing at 40. 35 if you are black. Not sure why it is so, but black men are susceptible at a younger age. It is true that most men die with prostate cancer rather than of it, but for some people, it can be an aggressive condition. The sooner it is detected, the earlier treatment can commence – and there are many treatments now available which are non invasive.

If just one man takes a PSA test as a result of reading your blog, and receives life saving treatment as a result, then you will have achieved more in your life than a certain Barnet politician ever will.

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