I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2014, at the age of 48. I had gone to my GP a few months earlier because I was exhausted as my nights were so disturbed by the need to pee (often 6 or 7 times a night).
My GP did a urine test to rule out diabetes and did a digital rectal exam (DRE) and described my prostate as perfectly normal. He also conducted a PSA test, just to be 'rule it out' and that came back with a reading of 2.6 microg/L and described as borderline for age (although I understand that there are no guidelines below the age of 50).
It would have been easy for that to have been the end of things - my GP had run out of ideas and I could so easily have decided I'd just have to put up with the lack of sleep and get on with it. But I didn't - I insisted that something was wrong and reminded my GP that I have private medical insurance through my work. This elicited a referral to a urologist.
The urologist repeated the DRE and to his expert fingers, something felt not quite right. Although my prostate was normal size, he thought that one side of it felt a little firm. A biopsy followed and I was diagnosed with T2C Gleeson 3+4 prostate cancer. I went on to have a radical prostatectomy in June 2014 and(with a few ups and downs) everything is looking good for my future.
Things for me could have been very different. Before all of this I knew where my prostate was, but had no clue what it did or the risks and signs of prostate cancer. Many men turn a blind eye to medical symptoms (especially anything to do with the trouser area) and just hope that things will sort themselves out; some of them are literally dying of ignorance.
We need to raise awareness in men including men under the age of 50 - this is not just "an old man's disease" - and we also need to better educate the medical profession that prostate cancer can be a risk for younger men. I have been struck by stories from other men who have been dissuaded from having a PSA test by their GP, only to be found to have prostate cancer at a later date. The earlier prostate cancer is caught the better the prognosis for the patient.
One such example is the courageous Kurt Jewson, who's Facebook post recently went viral. In his original post, Kurt tells how he went to his GP with blood in his urine and was told that it was probably just an infection and would clear up. The GP did not carry out a PSA test, most likely because Kurt was just 44 at the time, but a year later he was diagnosed. Kurt had to undergo surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy - how different might that have been if his GP had carried our a PSA test and Kurt had been diagnosed 12 months earlier?
My urologist told me that if I had not been diagnosed when I was, I would have been back within 5 years in pain and too late. I will turn 51 in a couple of weeks and thankfully, there's an excellent chance that I'm free of prostate cancer as well as my prostate.
I'm now determined to make a difference through raising awareness of the risks to younger men and supporting those diagnosed below the age of 50. I believe that the impact on these men (often with young families and in some cases still planning one) is significant. Being younger doesn't make them a different species, but it does mean that they're likely to have different priorities and heightened concerns about issues such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence - in the months after my operation when nothing worked and I was leaking everywhere, there were times I thought my life was over (or it would be better if it was). I looked for a support group and could not find one that I could relate to as most of the men were a generation older than me.
Each of us has our own journey with this disease and it can be a rocky road. I'm in a good place now and I hope that my experiences can benefit someone as they progress through their own journey. That's why I think we need a group targeted at younger men.