Talking openly about your prostate leads to early testing and diagnosis
The Province - Oct. 19, 2011
Younger men need to be aware of prostate cancer risks and get tested early, says Tom Sayle, co-chairman of the North Shore support group who was diagnosed 10 years ago at age 46.
Sayle had no symptoms, but pathology tests revealed an aggressive form of cancer that he says is often the case with younger prostate cancer patients.
At the time, he had just changed family doctors. His diagnosis came as a result of a physical that the new doctor ordered as part of the new patient process. "The doctor I had back then, I asked him about a PSA and he said, 'Oh no, you don't need one yet. In 10 years maybe.' If I had waited 10 years, I'd be dead."
Sayle credits his current doctor with saving his life.
In B.C., there are about 3,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year, with 70 per cent of newly diagnosed men in the 60 to 79 age group, according to 2007 statistics from the B.C. Cancer Agency.
However, 16 per cent, or 554 new cases, were men aged 40 to 59. There are no known causes of the disease but family history and lifestyle choices, particularly a meat-based diet, have shown to increase the risk.
Prostate Cancer Foundation B.C. recommends all men start screening through PSA tests and DREs at age 40, and earlier if there is a history of prostate cancer in the family.
"My message to younger men is: The biggest hurdle for men to overcome is the reluctance for the digital exam. The test itself, the machismo man doesn't really want to get involved with, but that's what's going to save your life.
"So get over it, you know. Get a digital exam in your 40s."
With early diagnosis, prostate cancer is often manageable, says Sayle who, 10 years later at age 56, is living cancer-free since having surgery and radiation treatment.
He calls himself a pseudo-vegetarian, having cut out red meat from his diet, a move that is highly recommended for those living with cancer. He says he believes in nutritional benefits from Vitamin D and lycopene, an antioxidant compound that give fruits and vegetables their red, yellow or orange colour.
"Prostate cancer is not necessarily going to kill you. You may have to live with it but there are many people who have lived with it for many, many years."
But the entire process can be difficult both physically and psychologically, and he says patience and support are necessary on the road to recovery.
Having role models and hearing other people talk about it who have gone through it will clear the way from shame and stigma, he says.
It comes down to local support groups where patients can talk openly and learn from others who are going through similar experiences.
"Being able to talk about it, and saying, 'This is what happened, this is what didn't happen, and look, I'm still alive and everything's good, and I'm still a healthy human being.' It'll break up some of the secrets and the misinformation and some of the fear about dealing with cancer. Cancer still scares the crap out of everybody. It's frightening and it doesn't have to be."