Mike Clifford came to BPC because of our distinctive diagnostic pathway. This may have saved his life, finding hidden kidney cancer.

Mike Clifford came to BPC because of our distinctive diagnostic pathway. This may have saved his life, finding hidden kidney cancer.

“I started having regular PSA monitoring about ten years ago after a slightly raised result. My PSA readings went up gradually and by the time they reached 9.2, I asked my GP for advice. The GP suggested going to an NHS service where I would be seen quickly. The appointment did come through promptly, but I was a little surprised to read I was being invited for a biopsy.

I’d done my own research by then and knew there was more to it than leaping straight to a prostate biopsy; there can be many reasons for a PSA being raised other than prostate cancer and a biopsy is an invasive procedure. The Birmingham Prostate Clinic website explained their approach: MRI first to establish whether there is a need for a biopsy and if this is the case, a template biopsy which is more thorough than the standard transrectal, especially in terms of reaching the back of the prostate. The logic of this made a lot of sense to me.

After my MRI scan, I was given a CT scan. I was then asked to come and see Mr Doherty the following day. He explained it was a ‘good news and bad news’ scenario. The good news was there was no prostate cancer: the cause of my elevated PSA was most likely to be some prostate enlargement. The bad news was the scan showed I had a four-inch tumour on my left kidney. A nephrectomy was recommended (complete removal of the affected kidney).

If I had gone down the NHS route, I would have had a biopsy of my prostate which would have come back clear and I would never have known about my kidney cancer. I had no symptoms whatsoever; it would have remained undetected.

I had my operation in April (2019). Thankfully, my cancer was contained with the kidney and Mr Doherty was able to remove the kidney, adrenal gland and lymph nodes and achieve complete cancer clearance with clear margins. People say – you are lucky. It feels like a funny kind of luck, although of course I am relieved my kidney cancer was discovered. A nephrectomy is a major operation so has taken some recovery time, but I have a positive, pragmatic approach to things. I’m glad the cancer was identified and once it was, it had to be dealt with.

PSA monitoring shows how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; there are 101 reasons why a PSA level may be elevated. My working life was as a captain in the Merchant Navy: when you are dealing with a situation, you need to have all the information and context. That was the advantage of the Birmingham Prostate Clinic: I was convinced by the MRI first approach and by the template biopsy, if a biopsy was required. I was also impressed by the nerve-sparing approach to prostate cancer surgery, if that had turned out to be what was required.

In conclusion, my experience shows the importance of seeing a specialist who can put everything into context then act accordingly. There is no point in thinking ‘what if’ but I am very glad to have taken the diagnostic route that I took and to have dealt with a cancer which could easily have remained undetected.”