Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse MBE may be better known for stomping around menacingly issuing orders to kill, but when it comes to prostate cancer he has some very sage advice: "It's a killing problem - if it is allowed to progress too far, it will kill you."
The actor started to get involved with Prostate Cancer UK after his brother was diagnosed with the disease. To show his support, he organised a golf day to raise funds for the charity. That decision would eventually lead to his own diagnosis of prostate cancer.
"My brother had been diagnosed," he said, "and he was treated and went on to recover perfectly fine. After the golf day, it was at the cheque presentation that I got chatting to someone from the charity," he says, "who told me that I was at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer myself, because a close relative diagnosed with the disease.
"At first, I said no thanks, I’m perfectly alright. But then I did make an appointment to see my doctor. My GP understood my concern and recognised the risk and so organised some tests, which confirmed that I too had prostate cancer. Finding out I had prostate cancer and being able to do something about it has been the best thing I’ve ever done."
Dave's treatment involved radiotherapy for 6 weeks, during which he didn't feel any after effects. He said that the treatment would take five minutes and he'd then go downstairs to wait for the transport to take him home.
"It was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life - it was just fantastic. Sometimes I'd have to wait up to an hour for the transport to come, and during that time, I got recognised a lot. A lot of people - either who had cancer or had relatives who did - came and started talking to me and asking me for advice. I ending up mentoring all these people and it was great."
Unlike testicular cancer, which almost always involves the removal of a testicle, prostate cancer is very easy to diagnose and treat. It is the most common cancer for men, and around 40,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.
When Dave was diagnosed, he was shocked. "I had no symptoms," he said. "And there are other men too who won't have symptoms. My advice is to: just go and see and doctor, it’s as simple as that. There's a straight blood test, the doctor stuck his fingers up my backside and had a feel. He said my prostate gland was slightly enlarged and later we found out I had cancer."
As with a lot of other cancers, there is no specific cause as to why the disease occurs, but we do know that if a relative has had it, your chances of getting it is higher. If you are 50 and above the risks also increase, as well as if you're of Afro-Caribbean descent.
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Some men might be put off by the doctor's rectal examination, but Dave says it's over and done in 30 seconds. "The thing to do is to try and explain to men that it’s a very very simple test. In minutes they can tell if you’re susceptible or give you the all clear. If you catch it early enough it’s treatable, if not, the worse it gets and the more difficult it gets to treat.
"If you have the slightest inclination there is something wrong, go and see the GP."
For more information about Prostate Cancer UK, visit the website.