When Joel Plummer started to experience the symptom of “a full bladder that felt it would burst”, he initially ignored it. When it got worse, he finally went to the doctor, but thought it was appendicitis. The doctor he saw – not his regular GP – thought it was a hernia and sent him off to the hospital. The hospital did a number of tests but told Plummer nothing out of the ordinary had been detected.
“I wasn’t comfortable with that,” says Plummer. “So I went back to see my regular GP, who had my medical history, and I told him what had happened. He asked me, ‘Did they check your prostate in hospital?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’ll do that now.’ He did the internal exam and found it was tender and inflamed, and told me that it was probably just an infection, but that he would get me to do a PSA blood test – a decision that saved my life.” (See Taking the Prostate Tests, right.)
Plummer says he considers himself unlucky to get prostate cancer, but then lucky to get through it. Indeed, he was fortunate to have had a symptom that alerted him to the fact that something was wrong, because one of the main concerns with prostate cancer is that, in its early stages, there may be no symptoms at all.
Men, Talk To Your Doctor
“Men should be aware that they shouldn’t wait until they have a problem before they talk to a doctor about a prostate test as part of an annual check-up,” says Anthony Lowe, CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA). PCFA recommends annual check-ups from the age of 50, but earlier if there is a family history. “If your father or one of your brothers has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, then [get checked] from age 40,” says Lowe.
“We often say to men, you get your car serviced once a year, you book it in and get it serviced, so make sure you book yourself in and get serviced once a year.”
Now, as an ambassador for PCFA, Plummer is keen to share the message, particularly since he was diagnosed with the disease at 40 – before the recommended age for an annual test. He also didn’t have a biological father or brother who’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“The most important thing is, as I tell people, don’t ignore symptoms,” Plummer says. “So if you’ve got issues urinating or there’s pain or anything like that – it doesn’t matter what your age – if it’s irregular, don’t ignore it, talk to a doctor.”
According to Lowe, one problem that could indicate you might have prostate cancer includes difficulties with urination – if you experience slow flow, the need to go often, or the need to go in the middle of the night, see your doctor.
“Particularly if you detected any blood in either semen or urine, those would definitely be potential issues,” says Lowe.
For more on prostate health, visit prostate.org.nz.