Prostate Cancer Patient: David Richards

New NHS figures have revealed that the number of men having treatment for prostate cancer has increased by more than a quarter in England in one year.  Announcing this positive increase, NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said it was thanks to awareness-raising campaigns, adding that people talking about cancer “can save lives”.

Encouraging men to get checked and to have an annual PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test, which is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer, is crucial as an early diagnosis can offer gentlemen more varied treatment options and improved outcomes.

David Richards, a 77-year-old from Tankerton, Kent, was diagnosed with prostate cancer on November 9th 2021, following a trip to his local GP after experiencing problems with urinating. His GP referred him to a urologist, who assessed that there might be a cancerous problem – and shortly after David was transferred to the oncology team.

He underwent a CT and MRI scan, as well as a biopsy, which came back with a Gleeson score of 7 (3 + 4), confirming PCa, but a low-grade cancer. David also had multiple PSA tests, with his first test coming back with a score of 5ng/ml, and his second increased to 13ng/ml.

Following his diagnosis, David extensively explored his treatment options and spoke to the hospital team, including Dr Edwards, about the best pathway for him. He initially decided against beam therapy as “there were lots of trips to and from the hospital,” explains David.

Instead, David decided to have LDR (Low Dose Rate) Brachytherapy – a treatment for localised prostate cancer which involves implanting tiny radioactive ‘seeds’ in the prostate using ultrasound guidance. He comments: “There was no repeat treatment, and it seemed like a more contained and localised option for LDR Brachytherapy. I also looked at the long-term survival rates, which were great for this treatment option.”

The specialist technique, which has been an established and proven treatment for prostate cancer for over three decades, means patients receive very targeted treatment with fewer side effects. It takes just 45-60 minutes to carry out the surgery and patients can go home the same day.

With the brachytherapy seeds in place, radiation is accurately delivered to the prostate over a number of months with very little exposure to other parts of the body. The treatment also means men can usually continue with all their normal activities, including work and exercise.

In early May 2022, David had the procedure at Kent Oncology Centre at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s (MTW).

MTW is one of a limited number of hospitals in the UK offering this procedure, and treated its first patient back in 2006. The expert Prostate Brachytherapy Team share their specialist knowledge by mentoring other brachytherapy centres including The Royal Marsden and healthcare centres further afield in Europe. In doing so, the team aims to increase opportunities for medical staff to become familiar with the technique and make it more accessible for patients internationally.

David was the 1000th patient at the Centre to receive the specialist cancer treatment, and commented: “Everything went as smooth as silk – a few days after the treatment I was back down my allotment and less than two weeks after the procedure it was like nothing had happened and I was totally back to normal.

“I’ve got nothing but praise and the NHS has done me proud, they are an excellent team at Maidstone and you can see how close-knit they are. I would recommend LDR brachytherapy to any man with prostate cancer as it worked for me!”

Following his procedure, David’s PSA score has dropped to 1.3ng/ml, which is described as a ‘normal score.’ If a gentleman is aged 50 to 69, a raised PSA is 3ng/ml or higher – as the higher a man’s PSA level, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer.

Chief of Cancer Services for MTW, Philippa Moth, concludes: “Being diagnosed with cancer can have such an impact on the lives of our patients and their families. It is really important that we are continuously developing our care, using innovative and established treatments which not only improve outcomes for our patients, but also improve their care experience.

“This is a fantastic milestone for the team to reach and demonstrates their vast experience with this specialist treatment. They’ve helped change the lives of so many people with their care and continue to ensure our patients are not only given quick access to treatment but are supported throughout their treatment.”