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 4000 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 “male- ego” 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.”