Ex-serviceman shares his experience as part of Male Cancer Awareness Month

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An ex-serviceman from Pontefract has shared his experiences of being diagnosed with two different types of cancer as part of Male Cancer Awareness Month.

David Howarth is working with Yorkshire Cancer Research to try and tackle the barriers that keep the disease taboo.

David was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011. The 58-year-old grandfather had passed blood while going to the toilet and tests found an abnormal growth, which turned out to be cancerous. He began a course of radiotherapy, followed by surgery to remove the growth and his rectum. He was fitted with a permanent stoma - an artificial opening attached to the bowel.

David, who served in the Falklands War and the first Gulf War, said: “My operation didn’t go too well initially. I had wounds that took a long time to heal. When I first saw the stoma, I was scared to death of touching it. It took some getting used to, but thankfully I’ve had no further complications.”

David’s second experience with cancer happened just four years later. He noticed he was passing urine more often, and a blood test showed raised levels of a protein called PSA. A biopsy showed cancerous cells.

David then underwent an operation known as a prostatectomy to remove his prostate gland but, earlier this year, a routine test once again showed raised PSA levels, and David was told the cancer had returned.

He now has his PSA levels tested every three months and a scan every six months to check how his cancer has progressed. Eventually, when the tumour has reached a specific size, he will be given immunotherapy, but in the meantime, David is focusing on getting life back to normal. He devotes a large part of his life to sharing his experience with medical professionals and other patients and is a member of a bowel cancer support group called ‘Bottoms Up’, which meets in Castleford and Wakefield.

David said: “We need to get more blokes to open up about their health. It can be difficult to get men to open up. If the cancer is caught early enough, there can be a good outcome. The problem is that people don’t come forward enough. Talking about it is the first step to changing that.”

Visit www.ycr.org.uk/malecancer for more information about cancer in men.