A couple of years ago, if you had asked me to guess what I’d be doing for my 43rd Birthday, facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer wouldn’t have been in my top ten guesses. But there I was, after a short whirlwind of events, being given the news that my MRI scan showed an area of ‘concern’ that was highly likely to be prostate cancer. Back in July 2021 I had seen a Facebook post by The East Grinstead Lions, advertising a free local PSA test, courtesy of PCaSO. Importantly, the ad stated for all men over the age of 40 and I was aware of what a PSA test was from working in the clinical diagnostic
Patient Story – Andrew Somerville
simply due to an infection? But, a week later I was sat discussing the result with a Urologist on my 43rd Birthday. This was my first experience of the terrifying use of the word “but” by medical professionals when discussing cancer diagnosis. He started by telling me that the MRI showed that I had “quite a small prostate actually” (phew!), then came the “but” – the MRI showed an area of concern in the form of a lesion on the left side of the prostate (PIRADS 4 lesion) suggesting a high likelihood of prostate cancer. At that point the room abruptly lurched to the side and all blood
industry for some years. This, and the fact it was free(!) encouraged me to sign up. The PSA testing event came and went, and I thought no more about it; I assumed it would come back ‘clear’ given my relatively young age, lack of any symptoms whatsoever, and no known family history of the disease I was however more than a little shocked when the result popped up in my inbox a week later; a ‘red’ result of 12.6 ng/ml – way above the healthy range for
seemed to drain from me. Looking back, this was the single worst point in my journey to date, as I had convinced myself that this would not be anything serious. After I had regained full awareness of where I was, we discussed the next stage of diagnosis: a biopsy which I opted for under general rather than local anaesthetic. All this was happening just a short while before Christmas, so after wishing me a Happy Birthday and
my age. I immediately contacted my GP surgery who, after considerable pestering, agreed to perform a second PSA test. This time the result came back as 10.5 ng/ml, further adding to my now increasing panic. After more phone calls attempting to contact the GP, they finally agreed for a doctor to actually examine me with a ‘Digital Rectal Examination’. Not something I had experienced before, but not quite as bad as I imagined! The doctor did put my mind at ease a little, stating that everything felt fine in his opinion,
The PSA testing event came and went, and I thought no more about it; I assumed it would come back ‘clear’ given my relatively young age, lack of any symptoms whatsoever, and no known family history of the disease.
telling me to enjoy Christmas and try not to worry, I was sent on my way. The biopsy date was booked very quickly (6th January) as I was now on the Cancer Pathway. The after effects of the biopsy were rather uncomfortable, however, I discovered the luxury of a ring cushion for sitting on in the days following the procedure. Within a matter of days, the result came through which I was now prepared for – cancer. The Urologist told me I had adenocarcinoma of the
he had never seen prostate cancer in a man of my age before, but he still referred me to East Surrey Hospital for an MRI to check if anything was showing on the prostate.
After referral, the MRI came around very quickly and by now I was fairly certain that, given the GP’s reassuring words, the scan wouldn’t show anything too concerning; perhaps my prostate was inflamed
prostate, tumour grade T2a N0 M0, with a Gleason score of 4+3=7.
Even though I had now resigned myself to the fact I had cancer, I hadn’t expected the required treatment to be as drastic as what the team now recommended – radical prostatectomy. The multi-disciplinary team stated that this was by the far the best treatment plan for me given my age and medium to high grade of cancer.
I needed to a have a bone scan at the end of January to ensure the cancer had not spread there, prior to being confirmed for surgery. The result of this was the first bit of positive news I had heard in some time; the cancer had not spread to the bones, and I could now focus on my up-coming surgery.
The date of my surgery (robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy) was set for February 14th at The Royal Surrey County Hospital, under the care of Prof. Christopher Eden. I was told by the Urologist that Prof Eden was an extremely experienced surgeon, specialising in nerve-sparing surgery (which I was very keen on having, if at all possible, to reduce the long-term side effects of the procedure).
level of continence and potency should return with time. A short while later, my histology results came through which revealed the cancer was more advanced that initially thought; it was re-diagnosed as pT3a Nx Mx. This meant that it was starting to break out of the prostate capsule BUT it had negative (albeit narrow) surgical margins; fingers crossed, they had got it all but literally in the nick of time.
Three months later, my first post-op PSA result came back undetectable and at 9 months, my latest PSA test has also come back undetectable.
My continence has returned to nearly pre-op levels and other performance ‘down below’ is pretty good too. I was told this should continue to improve and
From the time of my diagnosis, I had decided to get myself in the best shape possible and had managed to drop a fair few pounds, so at least I felt physically fit and well going into theatre. As this was all happening during the days of the COVID pandemic, I was having endless PCR tests performed before I could go anywhere near a hospital. Not to mention several visits to get my sperm frozen. However, on the day of surgery, the result of my pre-op PCR test had not been sent to RSCH so, I had to sit in a side room (pretty sure it was actually a cupboard!), whilst a hasty PCR test
I made some significant lifestyle changes concerning my fitness and diet. After some quite detailed research, I have changed my diet to a mostly plant based one, reduced my alcohol consumption right down to a couple of glasses of wine a week and I train hard 5 days a week.
plateau at 3 years post-op. During recovery, I made some significant lifestyle changes concerning my fitness and diet. After some quite detailed research, I have changed my diet to a mostly plantbased one, reduced my alcohol consumption right down to a couple of glasses of wine a week and I train hard 5 days a week. I’m working now as a gardener and teaching martial arts again (I did this over 10 years ago). I also made a number of changes to reduce stress in my life wherever possible as peer-reviewed research
was performed. Fortunately, the result was negative so surgery could now go ahead. When I came around from the anaesthetic (and sporting some very neat, small wounds), I was told I would be transferred to the Nuffield private hospital at the rear of RSCH, as all NHS beds were full. This turned out to be a pleasant surprise as I now had my own room, a nurse on-call and food that was better than many restaurants I have eaten in. And strangely, I had a pretty good appetite post-surgery. After a remarkably pleasant overnight stay and visit from the surgeon and his team, I was sent home complete with a catheter in place. Again, not the most comfortable of experiences but the catheter was removed within 2 weeks. At this stage, I was having to wear pads around the clock but, as the surgeon had told me should happen, my “waterworks” started to improve fairly rapidly. This was good timing for me as I’m not great at sitting still for very long, so I was able to start getting much more active again. The surgeon explained to me that full nerve-sparing had surgery had been conducted and that a good
strongly suggests the hugely negative effect that this can have on ones’ immune system and ability to fend-off disease. With the great benefit of hindsight, I can see now that over the past 10 years or so my diet and lifestyle could have been quite a bit healthier than it was. But now, I have to say I feel fantastic and wouldn’t have imagined this would be where I am nearly a year on from initial diagnosis. What a busy year 2022 has been for me! In July, my brother and I did a 60 mile hike across Devon and Somerset (The Coleridge Way), by way of a thank-you to raise money for PCaSO. We raised over £3K which I hope would pay for a fair few PSA tests! I’ve also become rather vocal amongst my friends and (anyone else who will listen!) regarding my disease and treatment and how lucky I’ve been to have caught it when I did. As a result, many of them have now been tested and will continue to be tested regularly. And I shall continue to be rather vocal about the critical importance of PSA testing for men of all ages. I am very open to talk to any men about what I’ve been through; the ups and the downs.