BPC patient Tony Sealey OBE urges Afro-Caribbean men to be aware of their increased prostate cancer risk

“In sharing my prostate cancer story my hope is that men in general and African-Caribbean men in particular do not die of ignorance by not having the PSA and associated tests. Prostate cancer can be treated successfully but early diagnosis is critical to the success of the treatment for prostate cancer.”
Tony Sealey OBE, Birmingham Prostate Clinic prostate cancer patient

It was a chance reading of a magazine during a flight back from the United States some 12 years ago which first alerted Athelston ‘Tony’ Sealey OBE to the particular danger of prostate cancer for Afro-Caribbean men.

Thanks to the magazine article, Mr Sealey urged his father to have a test for the disease, which undoubtedly saved his life. Mr Sealey subsequently became a Trustee/Ambassador for The Prostate Cancer Charity before ultimately facing the disease himself. Mr Sealey, a 55-year-old Birmingham businessman, describes his experience:

“I had been at a business conference in Chicago and was on a flight home. At the time, I had no idea that Afro-Caribbean men face a greater risk from prostate cancer. The magazine article explained that we are likely to get the disease at a younger age and have a more aggressive form of the disease. It really struck me and I asked my Dad whether he had ever been tested for the disease. He said ‘no’ and on the back of that conversation, Dad had some assessments and found he had prostate cancer. The disease was at a fairly early stage, but was diagnosed as being fairly aggressive and needed immediate treatment. Fortunately, Dad had brachytherapy, which worked well, and now, 10 years later, he is really fit and well

“My grandfather also had prostate cancer and with the increased risk to Afro-Caribbean men, it seemed it would be a case of ‘when’ I got the disease rather than ‘if’. So I became involved with The Prostate Cancer Charity partly as a means of educating myself and learning as much as I could about prostate cancer. I was also keen to help engage Afro-Caribbean men because despite their increase risk, many would stay away from the doctor because of fear and embarrassment about having a prostate examination.

“I had a PSA test every year, but did not have one done in 2011. Then in March 2012, I had a routine medical in line with the requirements of my business. I was in the United States attending a business convention when I received a phone call from my GP. My PSA had shot up to 11.22 and he wanted me to see a urologist as quickly as possible.

“Because of my family history and ethnicity, I was prepared for prostate cancer, but it certainly did knock me back getting it so early – at the age of 55. My father had been 64 and grandfather 65 when they were diagnosed. I was referred to the consultant urologist Alan Doherty of the Birmingham Prostate Clinic for further tests, including a further PSA test, an ultrasound and the genetics based test, called a PCA3, which showed a 86 per cent likelihood of prostate cancer. I had a new type of biopsy, called a template biopsy, which is more accurate and took 42 different samples from the prostate. This showed there was cancer on both sides of my prostate.

“As my father had brachytherapy and did well, I thought I would probably choose the same option. But Mr. Doherty said that taking into consideration my relatively young age, my ethnicity and because my cancer was relatively aggressive and on both sides of the prostate, surgery would be the best option for the most positive outcome. He encouraged me to have a second opinion from an oncologist to further discuss and clarify both the benefits and potential side effects of the different treatment options. The oncologist confirmed that my cancer was fairly aggressive and because of my age and ethnicity, if he were in my position, he would choose surgery. That made everything clear for me. For the patient choosing prostate cancer treatments, it can be overwhelming – there is a lot of information and you are the one who has to make a choice. It was important to have that straight talking and clear guidance.

“Prostate cancer surgery has been associated with high rates of incontinence and erectile dysfunction, almost as an inevitable part of the treatment. Mr. Doherty was very focused on nerve sparing – using techniques to reduce the risk of these complications. Right from the start, he was very clear and confident that good nerve sparing would be possible and would produce very positive outcomes.

“At the age of 55, it is important to know that a procedure you choose is not going to leave you with long term erectile dysfunction. It is still early days for me, but initial signs are that erectile recovery is good and will return in the months after surgery. I am now nine weeks post-surgery and have full control over my bladder functions and also spontaneous erections gradually returning so making good progress. It is good to have the support from the team at Birmingham Prostate Clinic because they understand men and male health concerns very well.

“It has made me reflect again on prostate cancer and Afro-Caribbean men. My personal experience was challenging and it did knock me back, but I had been proactive and so I had good choices as regards the best treatment options for me. If you don’t see a doctor and have a PSA test – take that first small step – you may end up with an incurable disease with limited treatment options.

“The big barrier for Afro-Caribbean men is having the prostate access via the rectal passage. This is a massive cause of embarrassment, fear and reluctance. In sharing my prostate cancer story my hope is that men in general and African-Caribbean men in particular do not die of ignorance by not having the PSA and associated tests. Prostate Cancer can be treated successfully but early diagnosis is critical to the success of the treatment for prostate cancer. So my simple message to Afro-Caribbean men and indeed all men aged 50+ is to take that first step – see a doctor, have a PSA test so you can at least know as early as possible if you may require treatment for prostate cancer because early diagnosis will give you better treatment choices and the best chances of beating the disease.

“I must certainly thank Mr. Alan Doherty and his entire Team at the Birmingham Prostate Cancer Clinic, BMI Priory Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham for the excellent care that I received from the time of my diagnosis right through to my post operation aftercare I really could not had hoped for a better outcome.”