Not too young for prostate cancer. Richard Rollings describes his experience of developing prostate cancer in his forties.

Richard Rollings Elevated PSA

When Richard Rollings had an elevated PSA result in his forties, he was initially told he was too young to get prostate cancer. Yet further tests revealed he did have the disease and five years later, Richard speaks about the need for prompt action and early diagnosis.

“I noticed something wasn’t right: I’d get the sensation of bursting to go to the toilet, but when I got there, wasn’t able to go properly. I saw my GP, who said at the age of 48, I was too young to get prostate cancer. He did a prostate examination, just in case, and although it felt normal, my PSA test result was a little raised.

I went to my local hospital for further tests which included a flow rate scan and a biopsy. The biopsy was pretty uncomfortable but I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious about it because of the reassurances I’d been given about my age. So it came as a huge shock to find out, a week or so later, that a small amount of cancer had been found. It left me reeling to find this out in a letter rather than a professional explaining what it meant and the opportunity to immediately talk to them about it.

I then had a few local hospital appointments culminating in the doctor saying – I think we should do another biopsy, as it has been a while since the last one. When I responded along the lines of – “oh no, not another of those,” he simply said okay then, and left it there. I came out of that appointment at a complete loss, feeling quite down about the lack of guidance, management or a clear way forward.

My wife met me after that appointment and immediately said we needed a second opinion. She went online as soon as we got home and that is how we found Mr Doherty at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. On the first appointment, he took us through the different blood tests I’d had, what they meant and explained that because my prostate cancer was at an early stage, there were lots of different options. Taking into account my age, he narrowed it down to two choices: active monitoring with no treatment, or surgery to remove my prostate. He explained that my prostate was three times the normal size (causing problems passing urine), so keyhole surgery wouldn’t be possible; it would need to be open surgery. Active monitoring would be an option if I could cope with knowing the cancer was there and manage my anxiety around blood tests.

Mr Doherty emphasised it was my choice and told us to take some time to think about it. This was just what we needed: in a very straightforward way, he had explained what the choices were and importantly, what the implications of those choices were. It meant I was able to make an informed decision and felt completely confident in Mr Doherty.

My inclination was towards surgery because I didn’t think I’d cope well with the uncertainty of active monitoring and the anxiety around regular blood tests. We chose an operation date just after my daughter’s university finals, as I didn’t want her worrying about me during her exams.

In all honesty, the first couple of days after surgery were rough. I had a bad reaction to something, causing sickness and stomach pain and I remember one evening around 8:30pm, coming round and seeing Mr Doherty. I asked him why he hadn’t finished for the day and he said he couldn’t go home while I was so poorly. To me, that really showed the calibre of the man. Within 24 hours, the sickness started to ease, I was able to eat and my recovery started.

In the early days, I’d be driving and the urge to go to the toilet would be so strong I would start to almost wet myself, or if I sat up quickly, there would be dribbling. That’s hard to cope with as an adult. The early months are frustrating and very annoying at times, but my continence was always improving; it was a matter of time and gradually progressing towards being dry again, which I am fully now.

In terms of erectile recovery, I did need medication (Cialis then Viagra) to get things going, but there was a steady improvement and now I’m back to normal without the need for any medication.

My PSA results three months after surgery was 0.01ng/ml, the lowest level possible. This were obviously very reassuring and confirmed my decision to have surgery.

Even during the early days of recovery, I’ve never regretted the decision I took. I went into surgery with full knowledge of what to expect, so every part of the recovery has been expected and perfectly manageable. After surgery, I saw Mr Doherty initially about every three to six months, then annually until October 2015 when Mr Doherty released me from his care, which is fantastic!

I count myself very fortunate that my cancer was diagnosed at a very early stage and I am now clear. It is amazing how many people have had prostate issues but never really talked about it. I am very open with people and we all need to ensure that guys do not ignore the symptoms due to embarrassment. Caught early, prostate cancer can be cured.”