Nerve-sparing prostatectomy testimonial – Andrew Burley

When Andrew Burley was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he chose nerve-sparing prostatectomy. A nerve sparing prostatectomy involves precision surgery aimed at removing all the cancer cells and at the same time, preserving the adjacent nerves.

This reduces the risk of impotence and incontinence. Surgeon Alan Doherty is one of the UK’s leading specialists in nerve-sparing keyhole prostatectomy and is able to spare the nerves as effectively in keyhole surgery as in open procedures. Mr Burley describes why it is important to consider quality of life issues when deciding which treatment to choose for prostate cancer.

“Both of my older brothers had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. My sister-in-law kept pestering me to go and have a PSA test. They were 60 and 61 and I was only 46 at the time, so at first I didn’t see the relevance of going for a test. Looking back, I’m very glad that she did pester me – I saw my GP in late October 2007 and my PSA was 3.6, slightly raised for my age.

“I had a biopsy in November and was diagnosed with prostate cancer three weeks later. I was absolutely stunned – it didn’t register with me at first. Of all the options, surgery appealed to me as it offered the opportunity of dealing with the cancer in one go and could be curative. But I was horrified at the side-effects. I was just 46 at the time – the thought of becoming impotent or incontinent was awful.

“My wife Ruth did some research on the internet and found The Birmingham Prostate Clinic. Nerve-sparing keyhole surgery seemed by far the best of all the options and my operation was booked for January 2008.

“I went into hospital for my operation on a Thursday and was home by Sunday. It was a little uncomfortable in the first 24 hours but I didn’t experience any pain. Nula Allen, Birmingham Prostate Clinic’s specialist nurse, had explained the pelvic floor exercises (live link to page on pelvic floor exercises in the information for patients section) and I had been doing them for a month before my operation.

“When the catheter came out two weeks after the operation, I was completely dry. I have never had any problems with continence whatsoever.

“Within a month, my erections were 50 per cent back to normal and by four months post-op, I was completely back to normal.

“When you first hear the word ‘cancer’ you go into shock and the focus is on cancer. But it is important to consider life after surgery and I found the complications of open surgery very depressing indeed. Once you have had the surgery, you can start to put the cancer behind you and you want to get your quality of life back.

“Nerve-sparing keyhole surgery is an excellent option for people like me with early stage cancer. You can tackle the disease in one go but at the same time, you recover quickly and the surgery does not harm the nearby nerves and cause new problems.”