Page last updated at 01:11 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 02:11 UK

DJ Bob Harris talks about fight with prostate cancer

By Neil Bowdler
Health Reporter, BBC News


DJ Bob Harris describes his treatment for prostate cancer

In 2007, cult broadcaster Bob Harris told his Radio 2 listeners he was taking a break for cancer treatment.

"I wasn't one for shouting from the roof tops," he explains, sitting in the studio of his Radio 2 weekend show.

"But I was going to be away from my programmes for over four months and I didn't just want to disappear on my listeners and them not to have an idea and maybe hear a rumour."

He just wanted to tell them, honestly, what was happening to him - that he had prostate cancer, that he was to undergo radiotherapy - and that he would be back.


It all began when the former Old Grey Whistle Test presenter had noticed a little blood in his urine. He was philosophical about it at first, but then came the tests.

That week was without doubt and by several hundred thousand miles the worst week of my life. I thought that's it
Bob Harris

A blood test (a PSA test) returned an unusually high reading, and his GP referred him for a rectal biopsy where samples are taken directly from the prostate. The results looked bad.

"The chap who examined me was absolutely convinced that the cancer had got into my system - had that happened, it would have been terminal," he says.

Only an MRI scan could confirm the prognosis, but for that he had to wait a week. "That week was without doubt and by several hundred thousand miles the worst week of my life. I thought that's it. I went completely into shutdown."

Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test
Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test

He put on a suit to get the results of the scan.

The specialist told him he was the luckiest man in the world. The cancer was just about to spread, he was told, but it hadn't yet.

Hormone therapy and a course of radiotherapy was prescribed. Now he was in with a fight, he thought.

Early on, Harris decided to put fitness first as he underwent treatment. One thing he was not prepared to be as a consequence of the hormone therapy, was fat.

"I thought there is no way I'm going to let this happen, so I began to gear myself to fight against all this in a big way. I thought I'll go out walking more or I'll up the weights.

"I'm going to fight against this in every way I can, and to try and retain some sense of wellbeing. I was absolutely determined not to let this get a hold of me."

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK, accounting for almost a quarter of male cancers
Each year, nearly 35,000 men are diagnosed and more than 10,000 die from the disease
Most men with early-stage prostate cancer are diagnosed because of bladder problems
A radical prostatectomy involves removal of the prostate
The most common side effects of this surgery are urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction but risk depends on overall health, the cancer and the skill of the surgeon

Harris is now well - everything has returned to "more or less" normal - but the fitness campaign continues. He wants to be sure he is doing everything within his power to stay well - and he's eager to tell other men to do the same.

He fully understands the embarrassment that prostate problems may cause for men.

"Prostate problems do attack your masculinity. Prostate removal will end your sex life. It also brings with it problems of incontinence. It's none of the things which make blokes feel great."

But just ignoring any potential problems may prove fatal.

"I would say to guys when you get into your mid forties, late forties, to start just going to the doctor and get regularly checked.

"It's not a big deal. They take a little phial of blood and analyse it. I mean it's a pinprick, it takes 30 seconds, it could save your life. That's it."

High-profile names can help raise awareness of a disease or condition, and bring it under the spotlight. This video series talks to those in the public eye about their personal reasons for speaking out.

If you have any queries about prostate cancer, call The Prostate Cancer Charity's confidential Helpline 0800 074 8383 which is staffed by specialist nurses and open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and Wednesdays from 7 - 9pm or visit

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