Prostate cancer: The hidden disease

Prostate cancer is a deadly condition that hits black men more than white, but it may not come with symptoms at first – that’s why one former sufferer is leading a call to get tested

LIFE-CHANGING: The Proton Therapy Centre in Prague, Czech Republic that Crosby attended

A CONCERNED grandfather is begging black men to get their prostate checked – after he developed cancer despite having no symptoms whatsoever.

According to NHS England, men of African Caribbean or African descent are two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than their white counterparts. The death rate is also twice as high, while black men are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age.

One man who’s fought and beaten prostate cancer, Crosby Enninful, is sharing his story in the hope it will convince others to seek help.

The 58-year-old says: “Men don’t discuss certain issues when it comes to their health, but that’s got to change.

PICTURED: Crosby Enninful

“I didn’t have any symptoms – absolutely nothing – and I don’t know what pushed me to see a doctor.

“Life is the most precious thing anyone has. And if you take action against prostate cancer early, it can save your life.”

Married Crosby, from Ladbroke Grove, west London, says his journey began in 2011, when he’d just turned 50.

And it began almost on a whim.

He explains: “I had no symptoms to suggest anything was wrong. I’ve never, ever had any symptoms. But I went to my GP and asked for a PSA test regardless. I’m now so glad I did.”

While there’s no national screening programme for prostate cancer, prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood testing is used as an ad hoc diagnostic tool in the UK.

PSA is a protein often produced by prostate cancer cells. Raised levels, discovered through a simple blood test, can indicate a tumour. According to NHS guidelines, if you’re aged 50 to 69, a PSA reading of 3ng/ml or higher represents a ‘raised’ level.

In Crosby’s case, his initial reading was 3.5, but by 2014 that had risen to 9.2. Biopsies confirmed the worst – the presence of cancerous cells.

Crosby had a number of options ahead of him.

He could have opted for a prostatectomy – surgical removal of the prostate – which runs the risk of side effects such as impotence and incontinence.

“They said, ‘We can take it out, and you’ll be free of this, but there’s a chance you might not be able to have sex again’. It’s a tough thing to hear,” he says.

“Meanwhile, if I’d opted for chemotherapy, the tumour could have returned.”

In the end, Crosby opted to undergo proton beam therapy – a highly accurate form of radiotherapy which radically reduces the collateral damage to nearby organs and can save patients from erectile dysfunction or incontinence.

It is not available on the NHS to treat prostate cancer. The cost of Crosby’s treatment at the acclaimed Proton Therapy Centre in Prague, Czech Republic, costs £34,000 for 21 ‘fractions’, or sessions.

During a follow-up PSA test in March 2015, Crosby’s levels had plunged to just 0.1.

When asked about his initial reaction, Crosby laughs: “Have you ever seen a mad man dancing before? I was jumping around the room! My word. The joy, the relief that I had at that time. It was unbelievable.”

Now, Crosby’s PSA stands at just 0.2 and he’s desperate to spread the word to save others.

He reveals: “My cancer was symptomless but it was also growing aggressively. “It is a hidden disease that can take your life if you don’t discover it until it’s too late.”

Dr Jirí Kubeš, medical director at the Proton Therapy Centre, reiterated Crosby’s calls.

ADVICE: Dr Jirí Kubeš says all men with any concerns should not hesitate to see their doctor

Dr Kubeš states: “There is no clear evidence as to why black men carry such a high risk of prostate cancer, but there is strong evidence that awareness is dangerously low.

“In most men, prostate cancer is there without them even knowing it and they often only become alerted when symptoms worsen.

“Men with any concerns at all should not hesitate to see their doctor.”

According to the charity Prostate Cancer UK, one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

In the general population, the risks lengthen to one in eight men. Official figures show there were 40,489 prostate cancer cases registered in 2016, accounting for one in four (26.1 per cent) male malignant cancer registrations. In the same year, there were more than 11,000 prostate cancer deaths in the UK.

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