The campaign has been launched to encourage men across the region to understand their risk of prostate cancer after the number of referrals for those suspected to have the disease dropped since the start of the pandemic.
Lance said: “My father had died from prostate cancer but I had no idea that I would be at an increased risk of getting the disease.
“You don’t think that cancer can be `contagious’ in that way so I didn’t realise that I was high risk. I was quite healthy – I had been a vegetarian for 30 years – did lots of walking, cycling and trail running, and had no symptoms. Well, perhaps a little bit slower passing water but I thought that was just my age.”
The SSCA kicked off the campaign during Men’s Health Week (June 14-20) and is taking to social media to ask the area’s community groups to urge men to have a potentially life-saving conversation with their GP, and to discuss the benefits of having a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test which Lance had in September 2016.
Following this, he was referred to Worthing Hospital’s urology department where he had a biopsy and MRI scan which showed there was cancer but it hadn’t spread outside of the prostate gland.
He was put on hormone treatment immediately and this was later followed with a course of chemotherapy and then radiotherapy.
Following his diagnosis, Lance was determined to maintain his fitness levels, even hiking up 3,000ft Welsh mountains during his chemotherapy, and has achieved several 10k races.
The 63-year-old said: “Cycling, running and walking have kept me fit and helped me through the treatment.
“This year I’ve climbed the equivalent of Everest, and I’ve maintained a positive mind set since I was first diagnosed four years ago.”
Lance also adopted a vegan diet, and consuming no alcohol since his diagnosis.
He is now a proactive member of a regional prostate cancer charity called PCaSO, helping to raise awareness of this disease and encouraging Sussex men who are in the higher risk groups – that is those aged over 50, black men and those with a family history of prostate cancer – to get a PSA test.
He said: “Men can relate to my story and I understand that for someone who has been recently diagnosed it can be very stressful.
“Men don’t talk about prostate cancer but it is so important to get an early diagnosis. It is just a simple blood test but can be life changing.
“I have never once felt like I am going to drop dead and have always felt I am going to see this thing through and I have been treated really wonderfully by the NHS.
“Luckily for me, because of the PSA test, the cancer was caught early and I didn’t need any radical surgery. I am still on hormone treatment but the cancer is all suppressed and long may it stay that way.”
For the campaign, the Alliance has also joined forces with charity, The Prostate Project, to raise awareness and the charity’s new patron, actress Felicity Kendal, who has filmed a video for social media to encourage women to have conversations with the men in their lives about prostate cancer.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has put men off from coming forward to talk about their health,” said Prof Stephen Langley, the Alliance’s urology lead and trustee of The Prostate Project.
”However, the difficulty is that early prostate cancer often has no symptoms, so it is up to men to be proactive and, if they fall into one of the higher risk categories, to ask their GP about the benefits of having a PSA test.”
Doctors’ surgeries are open and healthcare professionals can advise well men who don’t have any symptoms about the PSA test so they can make an informed decision about their health.
Prostate cancer can be treatable and many men will go on to live long lives after their diagnosis.
Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance’s primary care lead, Dr Alex Norman, said: “We know that since the Covid-19 pandemic, men have felt that they shouldn’t be bothering GPs with things like this, but it is important to talk to us if you fall into one of the risk categories for prostate cancer, or if you have any symptoms you are concerned about, such needing to go for a wee more frequently or blood in your urine.”
In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect men and it is estimated one in eight men will get it in their lifetime.
There are three main risk factors:
- Getting older: it mainly affects men aged 50 or over and the most common age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is 65-69 years;
- Family history of prostate cancer: compared to a man with no family history, the risk is 2.5 times greater if a parent or male sibling has been diagnosed;
- Black ethnicity – one in four black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
In Surrey and Sussex, prostate cancer is the second most prevalent cancer with 97 per cent survival rate at one year from diagnosis.
For more information about the Prostate Project, please visit www.prostate-project.org.uk
Visit https://www.england.nhs.uk/south-east/cancer-alliances/surrey-and-sussex-cancer-alliance/ for more about the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance.