Ian Cassels, 76 from Darvel in Ayrshire, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 after a comment mentioned in passing to his GP prompted tests.
Due to his cancer being found at an earlier stage, Ian opted for a radical prostatectomy – surgery to remove the prostate and the cancer cells – and has now been cancer free for 15 years.
Ian, who was fit and healthy at the time of his diagnosis was receiving treatment for a poisoned toe when his GP asked how things were with his health generally.
The then recently retired firefighter explained all was well, apart from having ‘the old man’s problem’ – in reference to the frequency with which he now needed to pee.
Ian said:“At that stage I was up three or four times a night to pee and found myself rushing during the day. I thought nothing of it, but my GP said it might have something to do with my prostate and tested my urine and took bloods including a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.”
The test showed Ian’s PSA levels were raised and a further check revealed his prostate was enlarged, so his GP referred him to University Hospital Ayr for a biopsy which resulted in his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Ian said:“I returned to the hospital with my wife for the results. Cancer hadn’t been mentioned at this point. I had no pain, no other symptoms. When the specialist nurse told me I had prostate cancer, you could have knocked me over with a feather. There’s an advert on the TV where a man is told he has cancer and he has a tear in his eye and his lip starts to tremble. That was me.
“The next couple of minutes I didn’t really take in what was being said. I heard my wife mention prognosis and we were told it was good. The nurse said I was relatively young, I was fit and healthy and most importantly, it had been found at an early stage. Within half an hour an MRI, ultrasound and bone scan had been organised and the tests happened within the next fortnight.”
A range of treatment options was discussed with Ian including active surveillance, radiotherapy, brachytherapy (a type of radiation therapy) or radical prostatectomy surgery to remove the prostate completely.
Ian said:“The treatment options were fully explained but I just wanted the cancer out of my body so opted for the radical prostatectomy. It wasn’t a bad experience, I had the surgery within two months and medication afterwards, and apart from the explained side effect of incontinence which can be managed through exercise, I’ve had no problems whatsoever.
“Being told it had been found early and having those treatment options was such a relief as I knew there were things that could be done.”
Speaking about life then and life now, Ian said:“Being told I had cancer floored me. But my family rallied round, my son, daughter and wife were magnificent and the NHS care I received was really good. The nurses gave me a lot of information which helped.
“I would say my diagnosis has changed my life, it’s made me more open to other people in terms of sharing my life and experience. When I was going through treatment, I went to a prostate cancer support group run by Prostate Cancer UK and I was asked if I was interested in volunteering. So next thing I was on a course to do awareness talks, and I’ve been doing them ever since.
“I do think about what the outcome would have been if I hadn’t spoken to the doctor. My wife and I have a great life and one I’m extremely thankful for. I was diagnosed in 2007, my daughter got married in 2009, I’ve watched my son join the police force and rise through the ranks and I have two terrific wee grandchildren. We enjoy holidays to Portugal every year.
“I would encourage anyone with concerns to access the Prostate Cancer UK website – and if you have any of those symptoms, make an appointment with your GP practice. If you’re over 50, don’t ignore any changes to your waterworks. The earlier you find prostate cancer, the better. It’s survivable and I am living proof that early detection works.”