A Cancer Champion is urging Tameside residents to join him in helping save lives.
Stephen Wilson (57), from Hyde, had his prostate cancer diagnosed early and implores anyone with symptoms to see their GP.
He is sharing his story of survival to promote Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout March, and the Cancer Champion scheme.
Cancer Champions are ordinary people who want to use their experience and knowledge to support those at risk of developing cancer or who have been recently diagnosed.
Stephen said: “It’s a good idea as it gets people out and aware of what’s going on. It’s about getting people to know what to check for and where to look for information. It’s about everyone connecting.”
Urging people to sign up, he added: “Please do it. It doesn’t cost anything and you’re helping other people. If you can save one person you know you’ve done your job.
“I was lucky to catch it early. They said if I had left it, it would have been too late. If you have any symptoms or a history in your family you should just go and get checked out and don’t be afraid of it.”
Stephen was first diagnosed six years ago. He said: “I just noticed I was going to the toilet a bit more than usual but put it down to the stress of my job at the time.”
Symptoms include the frequent need to pass urine, a difficulty or delay in starting urinating, pain in passing urine, blood in the urine, a weaker stream or difficulty stopping or dribbling and lower abdominal discomfort or pain. In many cases the cancer is slow-growing and may not need treatment.
Stephen, whose dad died of prostate cancer aged 72, went for a blood test, which indicated a raised level of prostate specific antigen (PSA). He had a biopsy that confirmed a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The father-of-four had an aggressive form of the disease and chose to have his prostate removed rather than undergo radiotherapy or other treatment. When the cancer returned five years later he underwent radiotherapy and is currently clear.
The joiner started going to Droylsden Prostate Cancer Support Group as soon as he was diagnosed and was made chairman a year later.
The group, which has around 25 members, covers the whole of Tameside and welcomes people from surrounding areas. It books speakers to talk about everything from treatments to keeping fit and cooking. The relaxed group enjoy a laugh together and new members are paired with a “buddy” who’s undergoing the same treatment.
Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group is backing Cancer Champions in line with its Care Together programme, which includes improving self-care and encouraging healthier lifestyles.
Dr Alan Dow, chair of T&G CCG, said: “Stephen’s story demonstrates the importance of knowing the symptoms and seeking help to catch cancer early. Becoming a Cancer Champion is a great way of spreading these messages and giving support.”
The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership’s Cancer Champions scheme, led by Voluntary Sector North West, aims to sign up 20,000 people.
You don’t need to be an expert, just to want to play a part. You can get involved by volunteering with a local group, talking about your experiences, facilitating feedback or encouraging people to reduce unhealthy behaviours, visit their GP if they have symptoms and take up cancer screening invitations. Training resources are available.
It takes a few minutes to sign up at www.icangm.co.uk/become-a-cancer-champion/sign-up.
Droylsden Prostate Cancer Support Group meets on the first Thursday of every month at The Salisbury Conservative Club on Ashton Road, Droylsden, from 6 to 8pm. It has a support group helpline to talk in confidence on 0800 035 5302. Email DroylsPCS@live.co.uk for more details.