Rugby coach Kevin Beales was just 45 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He talks about family history of the disease and the benefits of early treatment

Kevin Beales Rugby Coach Prostate Cancer Treatment

“There is a strong history of prostate cancer in our family. My grandfather had it and my father has been treated for prostate cancer by Mr Doherty at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. Considering our family history, my father encouraged myself and my brother to have a PSA test.

My brother went along to his GP and had his test without any problems. But, my experience was different. When I asked for a PSA test, my GP fired a lot of questions at me and in the end, I went away without having the test. My father was adamant that I should have the test, so I returned to my GP three months later, I again emphasised my family history and mentioned the advice had come via Mr Doherty for a PSA test.

I was told the doctor would have my results in a week or so. In fact, three days after taking the test, I had a call from the surgery asking me to go in and see a doctor. I was told that my PSA result was raised at a higher level than it should be for my age (I was 45 at the time) but was informed not to panic as it might be nothing to worry about and that future assessments could be obtrusive.  I was informed that I would be referred to see a consultant on the NHS and seen within four weeks. At this point we made the decision for me to see Mr Doherty.

At the Birmingham Prostate Clinic, I had a number of assessments: a more sensitive PSA test, an MRI scan and then a mapping biopsy. It materialised that I did have prostate cancer. In a consultation with Mr Doherty, he described it in terms that I could explain to my children, who were very young, aged eight and six. A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family and if I was going to have treatment, we needed to explain what was happening in a way which they could understand.

Mr Doherty, with the visual aid of the mapping biopsy, explained the prostate cancer in terms of cars on a car park: there were blue and yellow cars parked on parking bays. The problem was that the yellow cars wanted to change into red sports cars and leave the car park and the blue cars wanting to become yellow cars. The difficulty being we didn’t know how soon that would be, but we know that red cars are dangerous.

In other words, I had prostate cancer that was confined to the prostate gland and so I had a choice between going ahead with treatment or wait and have active monitoring. My wife and I looked at each other and really it was a no-brainer, with such a strong family history and experience of people who had cancer. We wanted to deal with it sooner rather than later.

I had my open prostatectomy in November (2015), which fell at a good time as I work as a landscape gardener and it meant I would be off work, recovering at a time of year that is quieter for my work schedule. I am also a swimming and rugby coach, so was fortunate to go into surgery with a good level of fitness.

I was in hospital for six days, then went home with a catheter which I wore for two weeks. I think having the catheter was possibly the worst part for me, although the children found it interesting and we were able to laugh about it. I took a full four weeks off work, then returned to light duties.

In terms of the main concerns about after-effects of prostate cancer surgery, by two to three months after surgery, I was wearing one sometimes two continence pads a day. I noticed that I was more likely to leak if my body was fatigued and I saw the benefits of the pelvic floor exercises. By eight months, I stopped wearing pads, though would have one handy in case and after 12 months, it was not a concern at all; no pads and no worries about leaks whatsoever. In terms of the other major concern, erectile dysfunction (ED), within six weeks, I could feel some ‘rumblings’, which seemed positive. I was prescribed some medication for ED which really helped and within six to eight months, we were back to normal and the medication was no longer needed.

In my PSA checks at three months and all the subsequent tests, my reading was 0.01ng/ml, which is the optimal sign of full cancer clearance. I am 100 per cent certain we did the right thing by dealing with prostate cancer sooner rather than later. I know people who have waited and have had lots of things to deal with; I don’t think I would have had this perfect outcome of full cancer clearance, full continence and no erectile dysfunction if I had waited for years.

I’ve talked to all my friends about it. I am so grateful that my father was so forthright in encouraging me to have a PSA test. He has been clear of cancer himself now for eight years. We do have an increased prostate cancer risk in our family which we know we will face one day with our sons too, but my experience has shown that with early tests and treatment, prostate cancer can be very successfully dealt with.”