Through my work as a shipbroker I came into contact with American corporations who included PSA testing in their employees annual health screening. Without annual screening the PSA test is not really any use without previous results to compare it to, unless it is so high as to leave no doubt there is something wrong. This is why I believe regular screening tests should be available in the UK.
My doctor didn’t appreciate the benefit of annual tests to monitor PSA levels. My GP was no help at all, he was critical of the fact that for past 5 years I had requested annual PSA tests and tried to dissuade me from having it. So I bought a test online and did it myself after I was struggling to go to the bathroom. When my results showed an increase in PSA and my GP didn’t show any interest I chose to visit a private consultant. An examination discovered a problem with my prostate but I was advised that this was normal for a man of my age and was not offered further assistance. Through my own research about the diagnosis of prostate cancer I decided I wasn’t happy to wait for the issue to get worse and had another PSA test done privately six months later. After sharing these results with my GP I once again received a dismissive response, his reply was “you are being grossly unfair because if you have prostate cancer and I tell you to do nothing then you will sue me”. As a result of this approach, I decided to contact the Proton Therapy Center in Prague who referred me to a PTC consultant in the UK. The consultant conducted an MRI scan and biopsy which confirmed a tumour. When I informed my GP I would be going to Prague for proton therapy he told me he was not prepared to be the doctor to do any follow up testing when I returned.
I felt unhappy with my experience on the NHS and with the treatment options in the UK so I chose to speak out when I read an article about it in a national newspaper. I wrote the paper a letter in response to the article, and they published it. I believe that the standard option recommended for men in the UK with low risk prostate cancer – active surveillance – is not the best choice.
In 2015 I was treated at the Prague Proton Therapy Center every second day over the period of about 3 weeks. I was in the treatment room for only about 20 minutes each time and on the days I wasn’t treated I went shopping and sightseeing. I stayed at a hotel near the centre and walked to and from there for each treatment.
I heard about the centre through the story of Ashya King being in the media, the little boy from the UK who was treated there. I was a bit apprehensive about the treatment itself, but I needn’t have been. I didn’t really feel anything at all, I’ve had worse pain at the dentist. I was expecting to feel ill during treatment but apart from some minor side effects towards the end of treatment I had no pain or problems. The environment of the treatment centre is caring and professional and nothing was too much trouble.
I think more men need to be aware of the risks of prostate cancer and not feel embarrassed about getting tested. One of the things I’ve realised is how ignorant most men are about it. Since my treatment I’ve had five or six men get in touch with me about my experience. I ask them what their PSA reading is, and they don’t have a clue. There is a certain level of embarrassment related to prostate cancer. Women aren’t the same about breast cancer. So my view is the more it’s talked about the better it is. Education is key, as is the PSA test.
I’m feeling very well and am optimistic about the future, my PSA level is now 0.86. I am now able to get back to riding my bike and enjoying the seaside where I live in Leigh-on-Sea. My son lives in Toronto and now that I have been successfully treated I can continue to visit him two or three times a year. I would unreservedly recommend treatment of prostate cancer at the PTC.