Monthly Archives: November 2011

What’s that on your lip?

It’s a moustache. I’ve decided to take part in Movember, an annual campaign to raise awareness of, and cash for, men’s cancers by growing a ‘tache.

Regular readers of this blog will know that in May I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Actually I suspect regular readers of this blog would have known that even if I hadn’t mentioned it here, since pretty much all regular readers are my mum. In September I had a radical prostatectomy—my prostate was removed—and last Thursday the consultant told me that the histology looked very good. All the signs are that the cancer has been removed from my body. There are more tests to come before I can be certain, but for now, let’s assume that I’m cured.

My mo

7th Movember

It’s been a rocky road getting here. To start with, there was the coming to terms with the idea that I have cancer. And then some difficult decisions.

Option A is reputed to have the highest chance of no recurrence, but only by a tiny margin. Besides, the problem with studies into recurrence rates at 15 years is that they necessarily study treatment techniques in use at least 15 years ago, so the reality is that you’re going in blind in terms of long term success rates. Option A also causes urinary incontinence—usually short term—and carries a high risk of permanent loss of erections.

Option B has a slightly lower risk of not getting it up again, but a significantly higher risk of bowel damage resulting in faecal incontinence.[1]

Tough choices. And not just for men, but for their partners too. Consider it women, what would you prefer? A total change to your sex life, or never accepting another dinner party invitation for fear your bloke will poo his pants half way through the evening?

So, that’s my motivation then? I’m growing a mo so that men in future will never be faced with these horrible choices because they were vaccinated in their teens and prostate cancer has been eradicated?

No. Get real. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

OK, so that men will not be faced with these choices because the Urologist will just hand them a prescription and say “take one of these three times a day for a fortnight and you’ll be right as rain. I’m afraid there’s a risk that your erections will be an inch or two bigger, but we can probably treat that if it’s a problem to you”?

Nice fantasy, but no, not that one either.

I’m decorating my face and spending a month looking a complete pillock so that men will be faced with these difficult choices in the future. Because around 10,000 men each year in the UK don’t have a choice of treatment[2]. They discover they have prostate cancer too late. It kills them.

It feels a very strange thing to say after being diagnosed with prostate cancer at 47, having had my fitness, my self esteem and my love life shattered by the treatment, but I was lucky. I caught it early and I’ve probably been cured. And it’s the catching it early that’s the key. Caught early it can be cured. But let it spread and things look a lot worse. Prostate cancer has a strong preference for spreading into the bones, and once it’s there, it kills.

So I’m growing a mo this month to give me a chance to say “Guys, don’t ignore this”. Problems with your boy bits are scary, and it’s all too tempting to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing’s happening. Don’t. Find out about the symptoms. Talk to your GP about check ups. Never ignore strange changes—it may be nothing, but get it checked out.

The choices I’ve faced were shitty, but a shed load better than dying.

Of course, a little bit of extra money for research into better treatments wouldn’t go amiss either, so do visit my Movember page and sponsor me.

  1. Of course, these options are a gross simplification. If you’re faced with these choices, don’t rely on anything on this page—talk to your specialist []
  2. Source: http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/prostate/statistics.html []