Jan Royall on the need for middle aged men and their families to act at the first signs of prostate cancer
Sunday is Father's Day and, whilst I don't like the relentless commercialisation, it is always good day for children to spend special time with their father, to tell him they love him. Of course not all kids are in touch with their Dad for various reasons and some are far away for work or family reasons. Others have died.
Death comes to us all but some deaths come too soon. I have just been to put flowers on the graves of my father and my husband. My Dad died at 66 from lung cancer, he was a smoker from the age of twelve until the age of 60 when he gave up; but he'd left it too late. For some time now however, we have had awareness raising campaigns about the dangers of smoking. We have also had excellent laws, such as the banning of smoking in public places and, more recently, the banning of smoking in cars in which there are children. I am proud that Labour fought for these changes.
My husband Stuart, the fantastic father of my children, died aged 62 from prostate cancer. A painful and, I believe, unnecessary early death if it had been diagnosed at an early stage. But not only was he unaware that he had the symptoms of prostate cancer, so was his GP.
Recent research shows that 83% of men who are at increased risk of prostate cancer are unaware of the danger, yet it is the most common cancer in men. Every hour one man dies of prostate cancer – more than 10,000 men every year. By 2030, it will be the most common cancer. Black men are, for reasons yet known, more likely to get prostate cancer than men of any other ethnic group – one in four get prostate cancer whilst it is one in eight for others.
Awareness and early diagnosis are therefore, fundamental to saving the lives of men in our country, many of whom are fathers. 250,000 are now living with prostate cancer, thanks to the ever improving treatment and fantastic research being under taken.
I am a great supporter of Prostate Cancer UK – a wonderful charity that provides information, advice and support; both for men with the disease and those who love and care for them. This coming Wednesday (18 June), the charity is launching a new report which sets out the key inequalities faced by men with prostate cancer and solutions to tackling them. I am confident that the report will lead to the quality of life being improved for thousands of men, as well as preventing early deaths.
During the week ahead, I will be urging the government to do more in terms of awareness raising and I will continuing my never ending campaign to get middle aged men to learn about the symptoms they need to look out for and, if worried, to insist their GP does the requisite tests. I know that my children wish that we had all been more aware in the months before their father was diagnosed. If we had, perhaps we could have helped more to prevent his early death and they would be celebrating this Father’s Day with him.
Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon is Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. She tweets @LabourRoyall
Published 14th June 2014