Some men face both the debilitating symptoms of an enlarged prostate and concerns about prostate cancer. Robert, aged 69 from Solihull, explains how addressing one problem resolved the other.

Toilet

“I’ve always been very fit and healthy, having never taken a single day off work. Then in 2012, I started having to need to toilet at night. Of course, it becomes worse over time and by last year, when I was on holiday with my wife in Mallorca, life was dominated by the worry of where the nearest toilet was. On the plane, on the cruise ship, everywhere we went, my concern was always about getting to the toilet.

Not only was there the inconvenience of hunting for toilets all the time, but there were other problems. My bladder wasn’t emptying properly, so I kept getting infections and my urethra was narrowing because of the pressure of my large prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH).

I was also aware of the risk of prostate cancer. I’d been involved in a charity event which aimed to encourage men to have a PSA test. I’d had a PSA test myself, which was very slightly over what it should be, but then repeat tests didn’t show anything conclusive, with my level moving up and down over time.

I ended up in my local NHS hospital, having urinary flow tests and also discussing what should be the next step in terms of assessing risk of prostate cancer and whether to have a biopsy. I felt I was really lacking any clear information or guidance. I asked the registrar what he would do if he father was in my position and he told me it was a decision I had to make myself.

I went along to an excellent Prostate Cancer Support Group which meets in Solihull. I spoke to the chair of the group, who gave me advice which proved to be very valuable: he suggested have a template biopsy, rather than a traditional biopsy, because the template approach is mapped by MRI and far more accurate. He suggested the PCA3 test is very useful, as well as the PSA and also advised me to find a specialist who has done a large number of prostate operations.

I’m comfortable doing my own research online and found the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. There was an immediate impression from the website of a centre of excellence and meeting Mr Doherty reinforced that. He immediately put me at ease, explained things clearly and spoke to me as an equal. Mr Doherty also guided my more clearly and said I needed a biopsy.

I had a PCA3 test, which was just about negative, then a template biopsy which showed three areas of cancer. Although the cancer was low grade, it was a clear decision for me to have surgery. Mr Doherty explained that he has the best results from open surgery and that didn’t faze me at all. I went into hospital for surgery on a Tuesday, followed the usual procedure of being in High Dependency the next day, then was walking around the ward by Thursday and home on Friday. I was back at work, decorating a house in Leeds within two weeks of surgery. There was very little pain.

Incontinence was not much of a problem. BPC nurse Mary Kirkham explained to me about pelvic floor exercises and like all of the team around Mr Doherty, she was very helpful and knowledgeable. I was able to travel long distances for work wearing just precautionary pads and by two-and-a-half months after surgery, was fully dry.

The huge difference for me was that after surgery, my BPH had gone. I could sleep through the night, which is something I hadn’t been able to do for years. I could go to town with my wife on a Sunday morning, have breakfast, walk around and drive home without needing or even thinking about the toilet. It is no exaggeration to say this surgery has transformed my life.

Since having the surgery, I’ve spoken to many people who have lost family and friends to prostate cancer, having been diagnosed when it is too late. I feel very fortunate that my prostate cancer was treated at an early stage. I found the operation and recovery a walk in the park, in all honesty, and at the same time, it dealt with the benign condition which was blighting my quality of life. It is a ‘win-win’ scenario.”