A retired scientist from North Wales has spoken of how his life has been transformed after a revolutionary treatment for prostate cancer.
Barry Jones, 66, from Treuddyn, near Mold, was the first person to receive the treatment - which doesn’t require major surgery or leave patients with any painful or embarrassing side-effects - at the Spire Yale private hospital in Wrexham.
The hospital’s consultant urological surgeon, Iqbal Shergill, is one of only a few specialists in the UK – and the only one in Wales – offering the breakthrough Prostate Mapping and High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) service. Barry had the treatment exactly one year ago and has since been able to lead a perfectly normal life with just occasional checks to ensure the prostate cancer has not returned. The prostate gland surrounds the uretha, which is the tube which carries urine from the bladder out of the body.
Prostate cancer generally affects men over 50 and is the most common type of cancer in men. Around 37,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year – about one every 10 minutes - and in 2010, there were over 10,000 deaths from the disease.
HIFU is a non-surgical procedure that uses high frequency ultrasound energy to heat and destroy tissue with cancer in the prostate gland, without affecting healthy surrounding tissue. In late 2011, Barry Jones had a routine blood test which showed he had a higher level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) than might be expected for someone of his age. A second blood test a few months later showed the level had increased.
Further tests carried out by consultant Mr Shergill at the Spire Yale Hospital confirmed that Barry did have localised prostate cancer.
Barry said: “At that stage it seemed the likely way forward would be radical surgery to remove the prostate rather than radiotherapy or chemotherapy. “Because of my scientific background I took a very analytical approach to it and after doing some research I concluded that all the techniques bore risks of nerve damage, incontinence and reduced sex drive to some degree. “My statistical background also taught me that percentage assurances of a successful outcome were not convincing.”
It was then confirmed by Mr Shergill that Barry was suitable for Prostate Mapping and HIFU treatment for his cancer and he was offered the chance of being the first to benefit from it at Spire Yale. He decided to go ahead with it after talking it over with his wife Carolyn, herself a retired scientist, and their two grown-up sons who also work in the scientific field.
First stage was the Prostate Mapping, a new way of more accurately assessing and mapping the prostate compared with the standard biopsy. This was carried out, under general anaesthetic, at Spire Yale by Mr Shergill in June of last year in preparation for the HIFU procedure which followed shortly afterwards. Barry recalled: “The HIFU was also done under general anaesthetic and when I came round there was an obvious feeling that there didn’t seem to be any pain.
“I stayed in the hospital that night and remember watching television to make myself tired – it really hadn’t been a very tiring day. I stayed until after lunch and then went home, so everything was done within one day. “I did have to have a catheter fitted but that was removed after just a few days. “I’ve since had no pain, there is no scarring from surgery and no other side-effects. In fact, I’ve been able to lead a completely normal life.
“I have had to go back to Spire Yale every three months for further PSA blood tests and there will be follow-up MRI scans every year.”
Barry added: “If someone is judged to be a suitable candidate for Prostate Mapping and HIFU I’d tell to go for it, but I think it’s essential to the treatment that the prostate cancer is picked up early.
“I find myself feeling no different than I did several months before the whole journey began. “I think I have kept a positive attitude throughout and I also think it has helped that I have been fascinated to learn about the details of the treatment and the technology involved.
“However, you also need to be aware how cancer affects people around you and impacts on their lives. “All my family has supported me in freely discussing issues and helping to make the right choices. I was also helped in this by staff at Spire Yale Hospital.”
Mr Shergill said: “Prostate Mapping and HIFU is a new concept in treatment for prostate cancer, which is currently the biggest killer of men between 50 and 60 in the UK with one new patient being diagnosed with it every 10 minutes.
“Although this type of treatment has been around for five to 10 years, it is only recently that it has been specifically developed to treat prostate cancer leaving normal prostate tissue alone. “Its main benefits are that patients don’t need to have a major operation and that the side-effects such as impotence and incontinence are reduced to a bare minimum.
“Another advantage is that it can be repeated on a patient in the future should that be necessary.” He added: “At the moment I am one of only a few specialists in the UK offering this pioneering treatment, and certainly the only one in Wales.
“Currently, the treatment is available in the private health sector and it is still undergoing trials in the NHS. “Here at Spire Yale we are very excited about the treatment and the fact that we are able to offer it to our patients.
“Barry became the first to have the treatment a year ago and walked out of hospital the next day.
“It has gone very well for him and he will now have three blood tests a year and an annual MRI scan and, if there is any doubt, there would be another biopsy done. “Since Barry’s case, we have successfully used the HIFU treatment on seven other prostate cancer patients at Spire Yale and also carried out between 27 Prostate Mapping procedures.”