Bill Turnbull says he ignored prostate cancer symptoms as he urges men to get checked


Bill Turnbull has revealed he ignored symptoms before being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.

The broadcaster, 64, was told by doctors in 2017 that he had incurable prostate cancer, which has since spread to his spine, ribs, pelvis, hips and legs.

Appearing on BBC Morning Live via a video call with hosts Kym Marsh and Gethin Jones, Turnbull discussed male resistance to talking about the disease and urged men to get checked.

“I didn't get checked which is why I'm in the situation I'm in now," he said.

Turnbull revealed he’d worked out that the first symptoms he’d experienced – aches and pains that didn’t go away – occurred around six to eight months before he diagnosed.

“And actually there were other warning signs in the previous years as well that I should have paid attention to,” he continued.

“Men don't want to go to the doctors, as simple as that,” he added.

“I didn't want to go to the doctor. Now I'm going to the doctor all the time. They all know me on a first name basis.”

Following his own experiences of not heeding symptoms, Turnbull urged viewers to seek medical advice if something doesn’t feel right.

“If you're worried about your dad, or your husband or your uncle for heaven's sake tell them to go and get checked,” he said.

“It doesn't hurt anybody and it can save you so much grief later in the day.

“I've had so many people get in touch and say 'yeah I got checked, I got diagnosed and we caught it early, and as a result, the future is a lot brighter' but if you don't do that, then it's a different picture.”

Earlier this month Turnbull delivered an update on his health following his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain the former BBC Breakfast host said he been shielding due to his vulnerability to the coronavirus.

“Oh, I'm OK. Good days and bad days and that sort of thing,” he said.

Turnbull was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 and made his diagnosis public in 2018.

Earlier this year, the father-of-three said he felt “calm” about the prospect of death and that he had developed “quite a healthy relationship” with it.

He shared he had been making preparations for his death, including parts of his funeral arrangements.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer develops when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way, according to charity Prostate Cancer UK.

Some prostate cancers grow really slowly, meaning it won’t cause any problems, but other prostate cancers grow quickly and are more likely to spread.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with more than 47,500 new cases every year – that’s 129 men being diagnosed every day.

Though it isn’t known exactly what causes prostate cancer, the condition is thought to be more common in African-Caribbean and African men and less common in Asian men.

One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, but this figure rises to one in four for black men.

Men with immediate relatives who have it are also slightly more likely to have it themselves.

More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year – that’s one man every 45 minutes.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Some prostate cancer develops slowly, so its symptoms may not show for many years, and might never cause any problems in your lifetime.

The signs of prostate cancer often only become noticeable when the prostate is enlarged enough to affect the urethra – the tube carrying urine from the bladder to the penis.

According to the NHS, prostate cancer symptoms can include:

  • needing to pee more frequently, often during the night

  • needing to rush to the toilet

  • difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy)

  • straining or taking a long time while peeing

  • weak flow

  • feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully

  • blood in urine or blood in semen

But these symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer. Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called prostate enlargement.

For some men the first symptoms of prostate cancer occur when it has spread beyond the prostate gland to the bones and these can include back pain, loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.

Whatever pain, discomfort or symptoms you feel, it is always best to discuss these with your GP.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Paul Erotocritou, consultant urologist at BMI King’s Oak Hospital in North London, says GPs can use a number of tests to diagnose the condition.

“A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test detects whether there is a rise of the PSA protein in the blood that might indicate prostate cancer,” he previously told Yahoo UK.

“There is also a urine test to detect whether an enlarged prostate might actually be an inflammation of the gland.

“Your GP may also be able to feel an enlarged prostate through the wall of the bowel.”

Further hospital tests may include more advanced tests such as a prostate biopsy, MRI, CT or ultrasound scan, or prostate mapping.

Last June, scientists revealed that men could soon be offered a new one-off prostate cancer scan, when they are aged 55-60, that could detect whether they are likely to develop a dangerous form of the disease, and which could give them “peace of mind” for the rest of their life.

The 10-minute scan, which could potentially be rolled out in supermarkets and shopping centres, detects dangerous cancers years before they cause any harm while ignoring growths that don’t pose a threat.

Treatments for prostate cancer

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are several possible treatments available, including monitoring a slow-spreading cancer, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and removal of the gland.

“It’s best to discuss treatments and side effects with your doctor,” said Erotocritou.

A new treatment called Rezum is also currently being trialled at one West Sussex hospital.

Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can contact Prostate Cancer UK's specialist nurses in confidence on 0800 074 8383 or online via the Live Chat instant messaging service at www.prostatecanceruk.org.

The specialist nurse phone service is free to landlines and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.

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