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Bill Turnbull tells men worried about prostate cancer: ‘For heaven’s sake go and get tested’

PUBLISHED: 15:53 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:53 10 October 2018

Bill Turnbull has been praised for speaking openly about his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Picture: Archant

Bill Turnbull has been praised for speaking openly about his prostate cancer diagnosis. Picture: Archant

Archant

Prostate cancer rates are set to double in the next 15 years, according to the forthcoming Movember campaign to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues. But two celebrities with links to this region have played a key role in getting more men to seek help. Sheena Grant reports.

Stephen Fry.
Picture: Matthew Usher.Stephen Fry. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Men are often accused of burying their heads in the sand when it comes to their health.

But the latest figures suggest that may be starting to change, thanks, in part, to the actions of celebrities Stephen Fry and Bill Turnbull.

Both have spoken openly this year about their treatment for prostate cancer and urged other men to be aware of the symptoms.

Now NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has thanked them for raising awareness and credited them with influencing the numbers of men seeking help.

Figures show that from April to July this year, 14,479 patients received treatment for a urological cancer - an increase of 3,929 (36%) compared to the same period in 2017.

And there were 70,000 visits to the NHS website advice page on prostate cancer in March - the month it was revealed former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull had been diagnosed with the disease - a 250% increase from the monthly average of around 20,000.

Mr Stevens said both Mr Fry, who grew up in Norfolk and has a home in the county, and Mr Turnbull, who lives near Saxmundham, were “owed a debt of gratitude”.

Mr Turnbull has this week again urged men to get tested for prostate cancer, saying: “If you feel the warning signs, particularly with waterworks and unexplained aches and pains that won’t go away, for heaven’s sake go and get tested. If it’s caught early it’s much better than finding out too late.”

Speaking to his former BBC Breakfast colleagues from his home in Suffolk he gave an update on his condition and revealed he had recently finished a gruelling nine rounds of chemotherapy.

“The effects are wearing off now so my energy levels are back up and I feel a lot better in that respect,” he said. “I’ve still got the disease and I have a long way to go but for the moment I feel OK.”

He also shared what it was like to get a cancer diagnosis.

“Prostate cancer was not on my mind at all. I got tested when I was 40 and 50 and was clear and I did not see a doctor for four years, which was probably my mistake, but I didn’t feel I needed to.

“When I got the announcement it was bombshell. It is one of the hardest things you will face in your life and it will happen to hundreds of people today when they are told they have cancer, all types of cancer. You have to push through it. It is a numbing, shocking moment. The consolation is that the first days are the darkest days. After that you can start putting it into context. It’s not great and it is a constant thing on your mind but if you can get through the first week or so it will get a little better.

“I have been told over and over again that there are new treatments coming out all the time. I am getting wonderful treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital and a diagnosis of cancer today is not a death sentence by any means. Many people survive and others are surviving for longer than they would have done a decade or two ago.”

Despite that, because of an ageing population more men now die from prostate cancer than the number of women killed by breast cancer in the UK, figures released earlier this year show.

The biggest cancer killers in the UK remain lung and bowel cancer, but prostate is now in third place. The latest figures, from 2015, show there were 11,819 deaths from prostate cancer compared with 11,442 from breast cancer.

The charity Movember, which is preparing for its annual campaign during November to raise funds and awareness about men’s health issues, says prostate cancer rates are set to double in the next 15 years. Along with testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention, it is one of three health issues faced by men the campaign is focussing on.

It wants people to sign up to support next month’s Movember by growing a moustache, committing to walking or running

60 kilometres - for the 60 men lost to suicide each hour - over the month or hosting a fundraising event.

To find out more visit the Movember website at https://uk.movember.com.

More about Movember

Movember was created in 2003 by some friends in Australia who wanted to promote the growth of the moustache as a way of changing the face of men’s health. Movember now spans the globe with campaigns in over 20 countries.

On prostate cancer, as with any other, says the charity, early detection is key - 98% of those whose illness is picked up early will survive beyond five years compared to just 26% whose are diagnosed late.

It advises men to see their GP about PSA testing - a blood test that can indicate prostate cancer - when they are 50. Those who are black or have a family history of the disease are at higher risk and should be seeking medical advice from age 45.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate gland - found only in men - reproduce far more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumour. It often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. But some men have a type of prostate cancer that is more likely to spread if left untreated.

Symptoms can include a need to urinate frequently, especially at night; difficulty starting urination or holding back urine; weak or interrupted flow of urine; painful or burning urination, painful ejaculation; blood in urine or semen or frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

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