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Get checked out . . . Kevin McClinchey (left) and Bob Penty are urging men to be proactive over their prostates. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

“Get a PSA [prostate specific antigen] test – it saved my life,” says Timaru man Kevin McClinchey.

He and Bob Penty are members of a Timaru prostate cancer support group and as part of Blue September, they are urging South Canterbury men to have their prostates tested.

Both have learnt through personal experience.

“I wouldn’t just say get a test; I’d say I insist you have it tested,” Mr Penty said.

Just over three years ago, Mr McClinchey (76) noticed a disturbing trend of increasing levels in his annual annual PSA tests.

It came as a shock when he was then diagnosed as having prostate cancer.

“I’d been fit and healthy. I had been having PSA testing over three years and there was no reason why they should go up.

“There were no symptoms until I had a biopsy.”

Prostate cancer facts

Symptoms: Going to the toilet to urinate four or more times a night; blood in urine; stop-start urine flow.

If detected early, 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years; if detected late 26% chance of survival.

3000 NZ men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.

600 NZ men die of prostate cancer each year.

Further information: www.prostate.org.nz Phone 0800 477-678

He was told the cancer was “fairly aggressive” but it had not spread.

“I accepted that I had cancer and my wife, Gay, had been through a similar thing; she had had breast cancer and she was fine.”

After major surgery, the cancer was removed and he has since recovered.

“I’m fit and healthy now, the only problem being there’s ED (erectile dysfunction); it doesn’t work anymore.

“For younger guys it’s a big deal but I had 50 odd years of fun.”

He was just pleased to be alive and well and greatly appreciated the support of his wife.

The same went for Mr Penty, who said his story was similar to Mr McClinchey’s.

He had no clear symptoms and had been taking regular PSA tests.

Two weeks after cancer was diagnosed, he was in Christchurch having surgery to remove his prostate.

“The big thing we try to push in our support group is that the trip through prostate cancer is yourself and your partner, especially if you’re younger.”

Again, like Mr McClinchey, the support of his wife, Margaret, had been a major factor in his recovery.

“Through friends, I knew how to get through it.”

Mr Penty was on a catheter for a week after his surgery and was incontinent for six months.

“One advantage is you don’t have to get up to go to the toilet at night.”

Like Mr McClinchey he had erectile dysfunction.

“The big thing we try to push in our support group is that the trip through prostate cancer is yourself and your partner, especially if you’re younger.”

He encouraged men to have a PSA test.

“It’s a specific blood test. Along with other testing methods it’s not 100%.

“The other method is DRE [digital rectal examination] which is also not 100%; from there you can get into MRIs and biopsies.”

Mr Penty and Mr McClinchey have spoken to groups around South Canterbury on the issue in the past few years.

“Men don’t like talking about it. They think they’re bullet-proof and that it won’t happen to them.”

They said men aged from 40 should get tested every two years and from 50, annually.

“The Prostate Cancer Foundation is working on getting the Government to automatically do PSA tests for anyone over 40 who is having a blood test,” Mr Penty said.

“And the foundation is recommending that if a doctor won’t do a PSA test, then they say you should change your doctor.”

Mr Penty said money was raised locally for the foundation “but we get a lot more back than what we put in”.

He said the foundation had sponsored two urology nurses in Timaru to undergo further studies.

“One nurse has completed a master’s degree and now we’ve got two of the most qualified urology nurses in New Zealand.”

The South Canterbury support group will hold a breakfast function at Columbus Coffee on September 19 from 7am. Tickets are $20, phone 686-0166.

The group meets monthly at the Cancer Society rooms in Memorial Avenue, Timaru, every second Tuesday, at 7pm.