Choosing the BPC Premier Diagnostic Pathway: the difference it made for me

By Stephen Hughes

“I’ve always invested a lot in my health and fitness. In my twenties and early 30’s, I was a Welsh Fell Running Champion and a regular top ten finisher in British races. Although arthritis finished my running career, I was able to maintain a high level of fitness through road cycling and have always tried to stay fit and active. So my PSA result came out of the blue. I had gone to see my GP about something else; it was a case of while I was there, let’s get the test done, especially as I do have a family history of prostate cancer. My PSA result was significantly elevated, at 13.1.

I was advised to stop cycling for a month, as there is evidence that a lot of cycling may be linked to higher PSA readings, but when the test was repeated at my local hospital, it was 13.8. Next, an MRI scan showed there were abnormalities and I was scheduled to have a biopsy.

It was at this point that I started to feel very fearful. I was due to have a TRUS (trans rectal ultrasound) biopsy and I was aware that many men found it a very painful procedure, with an increased risk of infection due to the route to the prostate. This particularly worried me as I had developed an acute reactive arthritis episode a few years earlier following an infection.

Therefore, I started to do my own research online and discovered a TRUS isn’t the most accurate method of diagnosing prostate cancer. Once I read about the trans-perineal template biopsy method used at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic, I jumped ship and came to see Mr Doherty.

My first impression of him was that he was highly competent and very reassuring. I also found him very straight talking and coming from a military background, I liked that. He reminded me of a long-haul pilot in some ways: immaculate, exuding years of experience, and with the utmost confidence of his capability. So I came away from my first consultation confident and with no doubt that if prostate cancer was present, I was in the very best hands.

After my biopsy in October which showed I had cancerous cells present, I had my radical prostatectomy a month later. Beforehand, I had been prepared by the advanced nurse practitioner, Mary Kirkham, who gave me some amazing pre and post-op information built up over years of procedures, that was to prove invaluable over the coming days and weeks. I found everything went to the letter of what I had been told to expect and if anything, even better.

I was astonished at how quickly my continence returned. I did do my pelvic floor exercises diligently – which is the best bit of advice I can offer, so within two weeks of surgery, whist I still wore a pad I was almost dry. I now also know that the continence recovery is very closely linked to surgical skill, so again back to Mr Doherty and his years of experience.

I have been sensible and I did keep up the pelvic floor exercises diligently as instructed for two to three weeks prior to my first post-op appointment and then I changed to a less formal regime. By six weeks after surgery, I was back to all normal activities and when I met friends and family recently, they were amazed at how well I looked. 12 weeks post op I feel I am now sufficiently recovered to start cycling again and have started my training for a big cycle ride across the Pyrenees.

At the same time that I was finding out about my diagnosis, I read about Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Ineos director and his experience of prostate cancer. I found his willingness to speak publicly about what he was going through helped my understanding of the process and bolstered my confidence at a time when I really needed it, so when asked I was more than happy to share my own experience.

I’m extremely grateful of course to the immense skill of Mr Doherty, the experience and support of Mary Kirkham and the exemplary care of everyone at Spire Parkway Hospital.”