BPC urges other men to have their PSA checked

Mr Hughes's wife with half a million King penguins on South Georgia in the Antarctic
“I have put the whole experience of prostate cancer behind me – both in terms of the physical recovery from surgery and in terms of not worrying about what might happen in the future.”
Christopher Hughes

Christopher Hughes is a 68-year-old retired businessman from Rugby, Warwickshire. A chance PSA test would turn out to be life-saving. Identifying prostate cancer and as importantly, choosing the right treatment at the right time, would turn out to be life-saving and has allowed Mr Hughes and his wife to continue with their great love of travel.

“Shortly after I retired, I had a health ‘MOT’. Everything was fine and then five years later, I thought I ought to have another one. Again, I was told there was nothing to worry about except that my PSA was slightly raised and I should see my GP about it. I didn’t know what PSA stood for and wasn’t at all concerned when I went along for the appointment.

My PSA was 11 and the doctor explained although it was only a little over the normal levels, they needed to do some more tests to check for prostate cancer. There was a prostate examination, a biopsy and MRI scan, which showed there was cancer in what appeared to be a small part of my prostate.

To be honest, I didn’t panic as I wasn’t sure what it meant. I found the idea of active surveillance appealing because that way, I could put off having treatment. The hardest thing was the uncertainty – not knowing exactly what was going on inside my body and not being told by doctors: ‘This is what we are going to do.’ There were discussions about travelling to Northampton for seven weeks of daily radiotherapy and about surgery.

I asked my NHS consultant in Coventry to recommend a prostate cancer specialist for a second opinion and he suggested Alan Doherty at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. I was pleased that as part of the Birmingham Prostate Clinic, I could also see Ahmed El-Modir, who explained about brachytherapy and cyberknife options, as well as speaking to Mr Doherty about surgery.

My wife had breast cancer 12 years ago. She was fortunate in that the cancer was identified at an early stage when it was very small. So she was able to have an operation and radiotherapy  that cleared the cancer and since then she has put it all behind her. That was certainly in my mind and influenced my thinking; it made sense to have treatment at the earliest possible stage.

Mr Doherty was careful not to push surgery but said in his opinion, the operation would be the safest option and together with my wife’s experience, I decided on surgery. I had an open prostatectomy in June 2014 at BMI Priory Hospital. The first three days after surgery were really tough and pretty painful; there is no other way to describe it although the care in the hospital was excellent. I left hospital on day four and returned to hospital a week later to have the catheter removed (which wasn’t painful, despite my fears).

A month after surgery, I saw Mr Doherty who reviewed the pathology reports from my operation. They showed that in fact, my prostate was riddled with cancer. If it had been left for another year, my cancer would have been inoperable. It is hard to take in how different things could have been.

My recovery continued. I needed to wear incontinence pads but by two months after surgery, I was down to one pad during the day and one at night. We went on a wonderful river cruise through Europe and very suddenly – almost overnight – I became dry. For a short period after that, I’d find if I was bending or lifting a weight, there might be a little leakage. But that has also stopped and now I go to the gym regularly without needing to wear any pads or worry about leaking.

After three months, my PSA reading was measured at the optimal 0.01 ng/ml indicating full cancer clearage. I have put the whole experience of prostate cancer behind me – both in terms of the physical recovery from surgery and in terms of not worrying about what might happen in the future.

I made the right choice which was certainly influenced by my wife’s experience and by the guidance of the Birmingham Prostate Clinic.”