Monday 10th September 2012
Chris (not his real name), 57, talks about the impact of having a radical prostatectomy on his life, sexuality and relationship with his wife.
‘I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2007. I’d suffered three urinary tract infections in five years so my doctor suggested doing some tests.’
‘I went to see a private specialist who did a urine flow rate check. This charts normal flow and mine wasn’t normal. They also felt the prostate and did a PSA test. My PSA test wasn’t bad; the normal is under four and mine was only six, so marginally over.’
‘However, all of these things added together and I was sent for a biopsy. Following the biopsy, I was sent for a CT scan that confirmed the cancer was confined to the prostate and hadn’t broken into the surrounding tissue.’
‘I went back to the consultant and was given 4-5 options and to be perfectly honest, you wouldn’t want to choose any. I had been given an information booklet back in October, so my wife and I had lots of time to think about the various options depending on the outcome of the tests. The option I went for was to have the entire prostate gland removed (known as a radical prostatectomy). My wife and I discussed the pros and cons and felt this was the best way to go.’
Making treatment decisions
‘I chose this treatment option because it was my best chance of survival. The things that made the choice very difficult were the possibility of incontinence and impotence.’
‘The incontinence was my main worry but it only lasted 3-4 weeks after I left the hospital. I had to be careful for a while and concentrate, but it’s pretty much forgotten about. To me it was a really huge thing at the time.'
‘The surgery left me impotent, but there are a number of things I can do, such as using a vacuum to pump blood into the penis or using injections. The main inconvenience of using these methods is that it’s not spontaneous - you have to plan for it.’
‘No matter how “fruity” you feel, it just doesn’t work anymore. It’s really miserable knowing that you’re never going to get an erection again. The injections are good, but not as good as the real thing.’
‘It’s been very difficult, but my wife and I manage to work through the issues ourselves. While we don’t visit a counsellor, we do talk openly about our situation with my consultant.’
‘It’s just been so easy with the consultant. I take my wife to the consultations and we chat about our sexual relationship. You have to take it in your stride. We’ve laughed about it. It’s not really funny, but you do.’
'There have been times when I get down and get a bit short with my wife out of frustration, but she doesn’t do the same to me. My children suddenly realise their dad is mortal and are more tolerant of me than they were before because they know they may lose me sooner than they anticipated.’
‘It’s really important that patients understand the risks involved in any treatment. Professionals should make sure they convey the risks clearly and be fully satisfied that the patient understands the issues.’
‘I now volunteer at my local Macmillan information centre. Professionals should recommend their patients go down and look at what the centres have to offer and the wide variety of information to help them make decisions about their treatment.’
We have information about prostate cancer, and the PSA test.
We also have month information about sexuality and cancer.