When a word can save a life

Mike Harrison
Mike Harrison

A Chapel councillor is talking about cancer in a bid to show how men’s reluctance to speak out could cost them their lives.

Women have a far better record of bringing their health issues out in the open - while prostate cancer is killing 10,000 men a year - many of whom might have survived if they’d just had a quiet word with a doctor.

For Mike Harrison discovering he had prostate cancer almost five years ago came as a surprise because he felt fine.

Speaking to the Advertiser during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Mike said: “I thought I was perfectly healthy and that is what comes across with the majority of men we see in the support group or elsewhere, that they say ‘I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me’”.

Mike put his symptoms down to getting older but when he mentioned it in passing to his GP she had him take a PSA test, a simple blood test, which showed further investigations were needed.

The test is available to men at higher risk of prostate cancer – men over 50 and younger men who are from an African Caribbean background or who have a family history of the disease. The test is not perfect but can indicate if further tests are needed.

Mike said: “I think the important thing to do is get more awareness, get more pressure so it is more likely that a more reliable test will come through.”

He said without a screening programme in place it was down to men to take a pro-active approach to their health.

“Basically it is a pretty big problem for men of a certain age.”

After he was diagnosed he spoke about the condition with other men and urged them to get checked out. “At least three went and found they needed more follow ups.

“When you get back to the figure that 37,000 men are diagnosed annually and 10,000 of these will die each year we need to do something about it.”

However if the cancer is caught early enough it need not stop anyone from continuing to lead an active life. Mike’s diagnosis has certainly not slowed him down. He is the past captain of Chapel Golf Club and is chairman of Chapel Parish Council as well as being involved in various other organisations.

He is also involved with High Peak’s Prostate Support Group that meets at Blythe House Hospice on the last Tuesday of the month from 5pm-7pm.

“It is for anybody affected by prostate cancer, if they have just been diagnosed or are a carer, wife or partner, they are all welcome to attend,” said Mike.

The Macmillan Information and Support Centre at Blythe House provides a confidential, drop-in service for anyone affected by cancer or who wants advice.

More information is also available from the Prostate Cancer Charity’s confidential helpline on 0800 074 8383 or online at www.prostate-cancer.org.uk.