More than 50,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. In Paul Sayer’s case, the cancer was aggressive – and his surgeon said the best chance of survival was a major operation called a prostatectomy, to completely remove the prostate.
They could get him into the surgical theatre within ten days. And yet, Paul was concerned that the procedure might render him incontinent and impotent – for the foreseeable future at least – as the surgery often leaves men with long-term erectile dysfunction, and four in ten will still need an incontinence pad after a year.
The alternative, he was told, was a procedure called radiotherapy. But there were similar risks and less chance of a cure.
Paul mentioned to his consultants that he had read about yet another option: high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). The scalpel-free treatment involves energy beams that blast tumour cells with pinpoint accuracy. And the biggest benefit is that almost no patients suffer the incontinence or sexual problems that often accompany a major operation.
“The way I understood it, HIFU attacks the tumour directly without damaging anything else. And because of this, there was less chance of damaging the nerves around the prostate that control continence and erections, which appealed to me,” said Paul.
Despite his local consultants telling him that HIFU was unsuited to his cancer (and only in trials), Paul decided to contact and meet the HIFU surgeon he’d read about, Professor Hashim Ahmed, a consultant surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Dr. Ahmed told him that he was a candidate for HIFU. Armed with this information, Paul asked his GP to refer him for treatment. “My GP hadn’t heard of HIFU for prostate cancer but agreed.”
The noninvasive HIFU procedure was carried out in July 2018. Paul says, “I was out of hospital that night. I had a catheter for a week and after that, I just got on with my life. I didn’t suffer any complications at all. And, although I’m having regular tests to monitor things, the cancer is gone.” In fact, Paul just reached the all-important five-year landmark this summer.
Meanwhile, Paul has turned his illness into a campaigning charity called Prost8 UK, which he founded in 2018, just a few months after his initial diagnosis. Now Prost8 UK is focused on increasing awareness of this revolutionary and minimally invasive treatment (which is available on the NHS) and also funding and delivering HIFU units into hospitals.
Explains Paul, “In the next ten years alone, up to 600,000 men in the UK will receive a new prostate cancer diagnosis; caught early, about a third of these will be suited to a minimally invasive treatment option – just like me! However, if things stay as they are, almost all of those many thousands of men will receive the same treatments as men with advanced cancer, and that just cannot be allowed to happen.”
Men must say no to overtreatment, to avoid dramatic and unnecessary impact on quality of life like erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. They need to know that alternative treatment options, like HIFU, are out there and can change their lives and save their lifestyles.”