Norfolk runner Steve Brown urges men to get prostate cancer check
- Credit: Archant
A piece of advice from his dad, who died from advanced prostate cancer seven years ago, may have saved Steve Brown’s life.
After his illness was diagnosed, Mick Brown told his son to ensure he had regular tests for levels of a protein that can give an early indication of prostate problems.
It’s advice Steve followed. And now, after being diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer himself, he’s urging other middle-aged men to do the same.
“Because of my father’s words to make sure I had regular PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) tests done my doctor was able to spot that the levels were creeping up, which ended up with me having a biopsy, which found low-grade prostate cancer,” says Steve, 59.
“My dad was 71 when he found out he had advanced prostate cancer. This devastated us. My dad was such a good man, the life and soul of any gathering. Without his advice my cancer could have remained undetected until an advanced stage - too late.”
The PSA blood test, however, isn’t offered routinely and men have to request it from their GP. Experts say it’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in blood and the amount rises as men age and the prostate gets bigger. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a prostate problem, but not necessarily cancer.
“An elevated PSA, together with symptoms, is a good indication that there is a problem with the prostate,” says Steve. “My message to all middle-age men is to get checked, particularly if there is a family history of prostate cancer, but be aware that a PSA test does run a very small risk of a false positive which could lead to unnecessary invasive procedures.
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“Even though mine has been found early it is worrying. In some ways it feels like a time bomb. I’m under observation at the moment but have got an appointment to discuss further treatment.”
In the meantime Steve has plenty to keep him occupied. He’s training to run the London Marathon on April 22, raising £2,500 for the charity Prostate Cancer Research Centre, and says he will complete the event in memory of his dad.
“I really want to draw attention to the excellent work the charity does and raise awareness of the disease, hopefully resulting in more men going for tests and perhaps saving their lives,” says Steve, who lives in Happisburgh. “I’m fairly new to running and am over the moon to be taking part in the marathon for this charity. I’ve done several half marathons but this will be my first full one. Prostate Cancer Research Centre have their biggest team yet of 75 running this year’s London Marathon. They aim to raise £150,000, which will be used to fund research into new treatment and therapy for advanced prostate cancer, including stem cell, immunotherapy and genetic research.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with more than 40,000 new diagnoses annually in the UK.
Last month the TV presenter and actor Stephen Fry, who grew up in Norfolk, revealed he underwent surgery for the disease in January and had his prostate - a small gland that helps in the production of semen - removed.
The 60-year-old shared the news in a 12-minute video posted on his Twitter page, alongside which he wrote: “For the last two months I’ve been in the throes of a rather unwelcome and unexpected adventure. I’m sorry I haven’t felt able to talk about it till now, but here I am explaining what has been going on.”
In the video, he said it was “all very personal and undignified so I might as well bite the bullet”, before explaining that he had seen his doctor in December to get a flu jab but it was later discovered he had cancer and the prostate was removed the following month.
He said: “They took the prostate out, they took 11 lymph nodes out. The various bits were examined and it turned out I had a Gleason score (an indication of how likely a cancer is to spread) of nine. Considering 10 is the maximum, it was clearly aggressive.”
The Norwich City fan added: “It’s a bit of a business having an operation like that; there are five holes punctured into you, it’s like being stabbed five times... to the body it’s the same traumatic effect.”
As far as Steve’s concerned though, however unpleasant, the treatment is preferable to the alternative.
“There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of - seeking help could save your life,” he says. “After a biopsy my cancer was given a Gleason scale six, which is non-aggressive at present. I consider myself quite fortunate in comparison to Stephen Fry.”
To support Steve’s fundraising efforts visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cockney-shouting. For more information visit www.prostate-cancer-research.org.uk.
What you need to know about prostate cancer
The Prostate Cancer Research Centre says the disease can be split into three types: early, locally advanced and advanced.
Early prostate cancer hasn’t spread outside the prostate and most men need no treatment or can be cured with radiotherapy or surgery; locally advanced disease is beginning to spread but still may be cured with radiotherapy or surgery; advanced prostate cancer is disease that has spread. Nearly all of the men who die of prostate cancer have advanced disease.
Men over 50 have a one in eight chance of developing prostate cancer.
Black men and men with a family history have a higher risk of prostate cancer, which is caused by random genetic changes.
Symptoms include weak urine stream, dribbling, difficulty, urgency, frequency, needing to get up in the night. These symptoms are, however, also associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement). Whatever your symptoms, it is vital to see a doctor.