When a man with a prostate reaches the age of about 50, nature and the family doctor become less interested in our genitalia and much more interested in our rear end, specifically our anus and rectum. I’m sure there is a female equivalent, but I can only speak from my own experience.
An incident when I was 64-years-old prompted me to ask my doctor about my blood sugars. He duly took a blood sample, and a few days later informed me that my sugars were fine but my cholesterol and PSA (prostate specific antigens) were high. I made an appointment to ascertain how he knew, knowing that I didn’t like the screening systems and had refused all previous screening options.
PSA levels and prostates
As I was most dissatisfied with the answer (standard procedure), I duly blamed the messenger for my slightly high ‘good’ cholesterol and a PSA figure of 46. The acceptable figure at that time for someone of my age was 5. The acceptable figure now is even less. I then shot the messenger and transferred to my mate the Captain of the W.A.R.T.S. walking group. He in turn gave me a ‘right bollocking’ for blaming someone who had probably saved my life; he’s never allowed me to forget it.
Up to that point in my life, I had not developed a need for my anus to be used for anything other than an outlet pipe. However, for a few months after this diagnosis, various members of the medical profession were queuing up to examine my poor old prostate, and there was only one way in (the exit). The biopsy samples and subsequent treatment were all carried out from the same area. The biopsy included a local anaesthetic, which was relatively straight forward, albeit with bleeding for a few days.
Treating prostate cancer
The oncologist (cancer specialist) advised ‘brachytherapy’, which is a type of radiotherapy whereby a radiation pellet is placed in or near the cancer site. This included a five-hour procedure under general anaesthetic, and at least three specialists; I say three, based on the number of people who came to see me just before the procedure. Each one came in individually and each one asked for my identity, date of birth and so on. I was beginning to ask myself, “who else would want this information?”
Luckily, to this day I have no idea what they got up to down there, but apparently part of the procedure included a camera, a computer-controlled aiming system and several guided missiles, all probably adding up to the size of a table leg. I don’t think my poor little bum has ever been the same since. I’m glad to say that after those first few months, all interest in my rear end by the medical profession ceased. It must have been in a right state by then.
However, the treatment continued with hormone therapy for a further three years. Apparently, prostate cancer thrives on testosterone. I’m sure some would say that testosterone is responsible for many detrimental issues within the male body; this is just another one.
After the first three months on hormone treatment, I began to notice changes in my body. My head hair grew thicker and more lush, my body hair almost disappeared, and my breasts grew – not to magnificent proportions, but they certainly grew bigger than before. I also developed a liking for rosé wine, had totally forgotten the offside rule in kickerball, and couldn’t for the life in me park the car ?.
Six months after finishing my hormone treatment I reverted to normal, for right or wrong. The jury’s still out.
Bite the bullet and speak to your doctor
All this sounds horrendous, and I’m sure many women who have experienced pregnancy and child birth will say “think yourself lucky mate”. But despite what I’ve said here, the experience wasn’t nearly as bad as my imagination beforehand led me to believe. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how we see it, I didn’t have any symptoms. The cancer was found in a routine screening; screening that I was stupidly offended by at the time.
In my humble opinion, when us chaps get to a certain age, or if there are chaps in the family with prostate problems, we should discuss it with our doctors. Maybe even with each other. We just have to grit our teeth for a while and bite the bullet, and any other cliché that may help, and get on with it. At least we have a very good chance of a healthy long life. And our doctor will finally take less interest in our genitalia.
Luckily, there is no image available for this ramble.
If you have been affected by this ramble and would like more information about prostate cancer, visit the prostate cancer UK website and/or make an appointment with your GP … don’t let embarrassment delay you!