A man living with the most severe form of prostate cancer has spoken about keeping the disease at bay – despite it having spread to his spine.
Neil Thomson, 72, first noticed the symptoms of the condition while on a family holiday.
However, it wasn’t until after a visit to the out-of-hours GP office 18 months later that he was first referred to Ninewells Hospital.
Having lived with the stage four cancer for five years, Neil explained his diagnosis was “incurable” not “terminal”.
He is encouraging men over 50 and those with a family history of the disease to get a check-up as part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Neil said: “I was back at my GP several times with suspected urine infections before ending up at the out-of-hours service about 18 months after my holiday.
“They removed about a litre and a half of urine from my bladder and inserted a catheter.
“That was on a Saturday evening and my first appointment at Ninewells was the following Friday, at the end of January 2015.”
Neil underwent various tests before his diagnosis.
“It just snowballed from there. I was totally shocked at how bad it was but also had a sense of relief to know what was wrong,” he said.
Neil said the cancer had spread from his prostate into his pelvic glands and was also in his back.
“By that stage, removing the prostate was not an option,” he continued.
“It had escaped – you can’t remove it if it has escaped.
“At that time the only treatment was quarterly hormone injections as no operation is possible when it has escaped. There are other variations now as science progresses.
“The hormones stop the production of testosterone which ‘feeds’ the cancer.
“My prostate reduced in size and the spot on the spine has healed. It is not terminal but incurable.
“The injections are done at my local GP and I visit oncology every six months.
“There are a few side-effects with the treatment, such as hot flushes and loss of body hair.”
Neil has an injection every three months to keep the cancer at bay.
“I have to take my hat off to Ninewells – the oncology department has been absolutely brilliant,” he said.
“It was one of the nurses who suggested we go to the Maggie’s Centre.”
Neil and his wife Sandra both attend the Maggie’s Centre weekly, where they receive support from the nurses and meet other patients battling the condition.
He said: “Maggie’s is a good place for support and some days just talking to the staff and other visitors is all I do.
“I also go to the prostate support group once a month where there are speakers on different relevant topics.
“There are usually about 20-25 men at it. I have found it a great help, as has my wife, who gets support as my carer.”
Speaking about raising awareness of the condition, Neil said: “I think it is very important that men who have bladder problems are checked by their GP.
“Although the initial test is uncomfortable, it is worth it.
“Information about prostate cancer should be made as easily available as breast cancer information.
“I just get on with things but I do need to use the loo frequently.”
Neil has a card which allows him to use any toilet, even if they are not open to the public.