As I write this article, I’ve been lucky to be in the 50% of men yet to have a cancer diagnosis.
However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had times when that has come into the conversation.
About 30 or so years ago, during a routine dental appointment, my dentist noticed that my Adam’s apple was rather large. I had previously ignored it as part of a man growing older, but took his advice and contacted my GP. This led to an operation to remove a cyst from my thyroid. A month later, I went for a follow-up and the consultant said, “..and the cancer check was negative.” Apparently I blanched. I had never given it any thought. Even with no previous consideration and a 100% negative outcome, I still shook. In those days it was still a bit taboo – the ‘Big C.’
About the same time, I noticed a lump in my stomach. I went to my GP and had some checks done and it revealed fatty tissue. Over the years, I always knew it was there. On occasions it felt a little different, or was slightly sore, and once it seemed to have got bigger. Each time I would refer it to my GP and peace of mind was restored. The most recent episode was a year ago, during the first lockdown. It didn’t feel right, and in view of the lockdown restrictions I chatted with my GP on the phone and took his advice. I promised to get back to him if certain changes happened. Nothing has happened since, but I remain watchful.
I started singing (other opinions are available!) in a choir in 2014, singing a minimum of five hours a week. The vocal chords are like a muscle and can be overused. I developed a cough a year or two ago, like some others in the choir. If you suffer from a persistent cough for more than three weeks it should be checked out. So, I visited my GP. He was satisfied it was viral and not consistent with anything more sinister. Again, if it continues and changes I will go back. The current pandemic has complicated that by being one of the potentially significant symptoms. It’s interesting that I recorded a video for Wessex Cancer Trust in 2021 and someone who is living with cancer himself noticed the cough and mentioned it to me. It’s great that he had that awareness and was pleased to hear it was being monitored.
It is noticeable that trips to the toilet can often exceed the average range that is suggested to be ‘normal’. So, I spoke to my GP who confirmed that ageing and being a ‘human thermostat’ are major factors, but this made me mindful of other factors that might suggest the need to further consult.
My wife, who’s a nurse, and my own knowledge and instincts suggest it’s nothing significant and probably just part of the ageing process you’re never really taught about, however I’m having it checked out when I go to the surgery for my annual blood test.
My latest bowel cancer check is due any day, and I will happily do this for the fourth time. Alas, I know men of my age who don’t – even with cancer directly affecting their family.
I know my surgery wants to hear of any doubts I may have. My GP told me, “the only stupid question and waste of my time is the one you don’t ask me.”