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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 12:18 GMT
'Nagging helped dad find cancer'
By Siobhan Toman
BBC News Interactive

My father only found out he had prostate cancer because he has a nagging wife.

With no obvious symptoms, and doctors who dismissed his initial approach for a test, he could easily have left it until it was too late.

Siobhan Toman with her dad Edward
Siobhan Toman's father Edward put initial symptoms down to 'too much beer'

In 2003 while on holiday in Australia, my mum happened to read an article about the symptoms of prostate cancer - one of which was frequent nocturnal trips to the toilet.

In spite of his claim that it was down to too much Aussie beer, when they got back to London she sent my dad off to the doctors.

The doctor said he had no real symptoms and was too young for prostate problems (at 57) so did not need to be tested.

My prudish dad was extremely relieved, having heard gory stories about prostate tests and being understandably reluctant to submit to them.


Luckily a few months later, my mother's nagging sent him back to the GP, and he was given a PSA test - a simple blood test to check the level of a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen.

A doctor's gloved finger is less frightening than an early death
Siobhan Toman
A raised PSA level can indicate an infection, or inflammation, or even that you have been riding a bike - or it can mean prostate cancer.

My dad's PSA was raised, but we were told that it was likely to be just an infection.

He was given antibiotics and a follow-up appointment.

But his PSA remained high, so a few months later a DRE (the dreaded 'digital rectal examination') and a painful biopsy diagnosed prostate cancer.

It was aggressive, but contained within the prostate, so the best treatment option for my dad was surgery.

The wait for the operation was tense. The difference between a cancer which is contained and a cancer which has spread beyond the prostate can be the difference between life and death.

It was several months between his test and the date set for the operation, and even though the doctors assured us it was not a risk, every day I feared that the cancer could be creeping further afield.

Luckily, the operation was deemed successful.

Nagging campaign extended

As far as the surgeon could tell, the cancer was still contained when he removed the prostate.

Tests every three months seem to indicate that the cancer is gone, and nearly two years after his diagnosis, my dad is in good health.

You do not get an all-clear with prostate cancer - not for at least 10 years.

It can re-emerge in other organs, or in the bones.

And at this stage, the options for treatment are more about prolonging life, not curing the cancer.

This is one of the reasons why prostate cancer is such a big killer.

The statistics include men who die from it in old age, as well as the younger men who die from the more aggressive form.

It is also a killer because it often goes undiagnosed for a long time. Men are unlikely to submit themselves for embarrassing or painful tests unless they are really worried, and many of the cancer's symptoms can easily be put down to other things, or simply not be noticeable at all.

Men need to be made more aware of the disease, and then encouraged, reminded and nagged to get tested.

They also need to research their family histories.

After my dad was diagnosed, my mum extended her campaign and told his three brothers to get themselves tested - one of them found that he also had the cancer.

If you are a man, or know a man, who seems to fit the symptoms, get him to see a doctor. It will probably be nothing, it might make him feel like a hypochondriac, but it could be worth-while.

A doctor's gloved finger is less frightening than an early death.

Prostate cancer news 'by phone'
04 Nov 05 |  Health
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