Lee Cookson, a second opinion on his raised PSA levels resulting in a prostatectomy

Lee Cookson, 50 wanted a second opinion on his raised PSA levels, with his research leading him to Mr Alan Doherty. Following a prostatectomy Lee wants to encourage men to seek medical advice if they’re experiencing symptoms as an early diagnosis can lead to more treatment options and better outcomes.

As a forensic engineer by profession and practicing as an expert witness Lee Cookson spends his working life asking questions and applying scientific reasoning to establish the cause of fires and mechanical failures. Here he tells us about his prostate cancer journey and how he used his professional experience to ensure he got the treatment that was right for him.

I am only 50 years old, and I had not given prostate cancer much thought, and let’s be honest, it’s an old man’s disease, and it only gave both my grandfather’s trouble when they were 77 and 82. I had experienced some occasional symptoms; reduced flow and increased frequency, and waking at night needing to urinate; however, it was in a cycle and symptoms would go within a week or so. I dismissed it.

Following some continued grumbling from my partner, I went to see my GP, and asked for a PSA test. The day after my test my GP called me with the results, my PSA was 6.2 and he referred me to the hospital for further investigations.

I was in shock for the next couple of weeks whilst I waited to be seen at my local hospital.  I met with a Dr who examined me and told me if it was cancer, the good news was they’d caught it early, and he’d do an MRI and book me in for a biopsy depending on what they found on the scan.  The MRI confirmed a ‘lesion’, and a biopsy was agreed as the next step.  The biopsy results indicated I did not have cancer however I still had unanswered questions and wanted to understand why my PSA was high.  My partner carried out some research online and found Mr Alan Doherty who I contacted for a second opinion.

Having provided him with the background to my visit Mr Doherty ordered a guided biopsy under general anaesthetic so he could see what he was dealing with.

This biopsy confirmed that I had early-stage prostate cancer, so Mr Doherty offered me a choice of three treatment options: a watching brief, radiation therapy or surgery.

Whilst I knew there was a risk of incontinence and impotence with surgery, with my forensic engineer head on, I knew that surgery was the option for me.

Prior to the surgery, I had an appointment with Mr Doherty’s specialist nurse whose mannerisms and approach were straight-talking in giving me the facts, and exactly what I needed. I was given a detailed booklet and told, in the clearest terms, that one thing which will impact the outcome is pelvic floor exercises before the surgery.

My surgery took place in April 2020 at Spire Parkway, with Covid in full swing.  Seeing the operating theatre and getting on the table myself with staff in PPE was a memory that will stay with me but at the same time was greatly reassured by the Covid protocols in place which ultimately enabled me to safely undergo surgery despite the pandemic.

4 days in hospital, and post-surgery, I recovered at home with a catheter for the first 10 days.

Looking back, recovery was hard, and it was a month before I was properly mobile, and I suffered considerable fatigue for about 6 weeks. At 8 weeks I began cycling again and at 12 months I am returning to Scuba diving and consider myself to have made an excellent recovery.

I would strongly recommend any men experiencing symptoms like mine to always seek medical advice as an early prostate cancer diagnosis means you can treat it before it spreads meaning you have more treatment options available to you.