‘Drop your ego and get tested’

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - VUYO MKIZE

IT’S SOME­THING that hap­pens to other peo­ple.

Surely it wouldn’t hap­pen to any­one in your fam­ily, let alone to you?

But the one thing cancer doesn’t do is dis­crim­i­nate.

“When it comes knock­ing at your door, it is re­ally quite a shock,” Iain John­ston, a prostate cancer sur­vivor re­called.

In 2011, John­ston had gone for his an­nual check-up with his doc­tor, who did a PSA (prostate-spe­cific anti­gen) test.

Ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion The Mayo Clinic, the test is used pri­mar­ily to screen for prostate cancer.

The test mea­sures the amount of PSA, a pro­tein pro­duced by both can­cer­ous and non-can­cer­ous tis­sue in the prostate, in a man’s blood.

The prostate is a small gland that sits be­low a man’s blad­der.

Prostate cancer is re­ceiv­ing at­ten­tion as June is Men’s Health Aware­ness Month.

His ex­pe­ri­ence has in­spired John­ston to urge men to get tested for health is­sues.

He said: “My PSA lev­els, which were al­ways sort of up and down, started to con­tinue ris­ing.

“I also had a dig­i­tal rec­tal exam, where doc­tors put a fin­ger up your anus to feel for any ab­nor­mal­i­ties – an im­por­tant test for any man to have done at least once a year.”

John­ston’s prostate also found to be en­larged.

Ac­cord­ing to the Prostate Cancer Foun­da­tion, it is es­ti­mated that one in six men will be di­ag­nosed with prostate cancer.

It is the lead­ing cancer in males, with more than 4 000 men di­ag­nosed in South Africa ev­ery year.

While it is rare in men un­der the age of 40, af­ter the age of 50 the in­ci­dence rises steeply and, by the age of 80, al­most 80% of men will have prostate cancer.

John­ston was re­ferred to Pre­to­ria Urol­ogy Hos­pi­tal, where medics sug­gested a biopsy. Three out of his four sam­ples tested pos­i­tive for prostate cancer.

“We dis­cussed treat­ments that were suit­able for me be­cause treat­ment plans are dif­fer­ent for each man.

“For me, the best treat­ment op­tion was hav­ing my prostate re­moved… it’s a big pro­ce­dure. And mine was done at a time prior to the in­tro­duc­tion of ro­bot­ics, which are less in­va­sive.”

John­ston warned the “maleego” could be a dis­ad­van­tage for many men who would rather ig­nore is­sues than deal with them up­front. You stop any man on the street and when you ask them where the prostate gland is in their body and they won’t know, yet it is nour­ishes their se­men and is an im­por­tant gland.

“We men have huge egos… we like talk­ing about sex and women but, when it comes to strug­gles get­ting an erec­tion or trou­bles uri­nat­ing, we don’t talk as openly to our mates or GPs,” he con­tin­ued.

John­ston was back to work, al­beit in a limited ca­pac­ity, three weeks af­ter his surgery, de­spite the nor­mal re­cov­ery time of six weeks.

“I was lucky, I caught it early enough. If you wake up to it late and get it al­ready at stage 2 or 3, all you can do at that point is man­age it. And if you have to have it re­moved, it’s not the end of the world.

“Yes, you may deal with erec­tile dys­func­tion but there are ways around that.”

John­ston added: “When you’re younger, you feel like you’re bul­let­proof and can do any­thing. When you’re older, you start re­al­is­ing that you are vul­ner­a­ble.”

Iain John­ston, cancer sur­vivor

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