Get Your Prostate Checked – If You Do One Thing For Bill Turnbull, Do This

The former BBC Breakfast presenter has died at the age of 66. He spent years urging men to get tested for prostate cancer.
Bill Turnbull
Classic FM via PA Media
Bill Turnbull

“Men don’t want to go to the doctors, [it’s] as simple as that.” Those were the words of Bill Turnbull, as he shared details of his prostate cancer diagnosis in a bid to inspire more men to get tested.

The former BBC Breakfast presenter, who has sadly died at the age of 66, has been incredibly vocal about his own struggles over the years to raise awareness of the disease – which he was diagnosed with in 2017 – and inspire others to get checked.

And he did just that. In December 2018, Lisa Skinner, from Poulton-le-Fylde, met Turnbull to thank him for going public about his prostate cancer, as it alerted her to her father’s symptoms and caught his cancer early.

“I’d noticed that some of the symptoms that Bill mentioned on the TV were similar to what my dad was experiencing, such as needing to get up in the night to go to the toilet,” she said.

“I’m so grateful Bill Turnbull prompted me to book my dad in for a doctor’s appointment. If the cancer hadn’t been caught then, I dread to think whether he’d be alive or not today.”

Turnbull found out he had prostate cancer, which had spread to his bones, while filming a celebrity edition of The Great British Bake Off, in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, in November 2017.

A few months after his diagnosis, he was interviewed by his friend and former colleague Sian Williams for the Radio Times, in which he revealed he was undergoing chemotherapy after the cancer had spread to his legs, hips, pelvis and ribs.

The presenter told Williams he’d had prostate tests at 40 and 50 and had experienced aches and pains for “a year or so” in his early sixties, but didn’t see a doctor about them straight away. “Maybe if I’d got it earlier and stopped it at the prostate, I’d be in a much better state,” he said at the time.

In an interview with BBC Morning Live, he said “the first symptoms were maybe six months, eight months before I got diagnosed, with aches and pains that didn’t go away”.

“And actually there were other warning signs in the previous years as well that I should have paid attention to,” he added. “Men don’t want to go to the doctors, as simple as that. I didn’t want to go to the doctor. Now I’m going to the doctor all the time. They all know me on a first name basis.”

After he spoke out about his illness, the number of men getting tested for prostate cancer rose by 250%, according to the BBC, which was partially attributed to him speaking out, in addition to Stephen Fry opening up about his diagnosis.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis, found only in men. About the size of a walnut, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.

The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. It produces a thick white fluid that is mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles and is secreted at the time of ejaculation.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Symptoms of prostate cancer are often largely invisible. In fact, it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra.

At this point, men might experience symptoms such as:

  • needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night;
  • needing to rush to the toilet;
  • difficulty urinating;
  • straining or taking a long time to urinate;
  • having a weak flow;
  • feeling that the bladder hasn’t emptied fully.

According to Prostate Cancer UK, if the cancer has spread men might experience bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.


If you experience any of the above symptoms, or a member of your family has had prostate cancer, you should visit your GP. There, your doctor should take a urine sample to check for infection, take a blood sample to test your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and examine your prostate.

PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. Prostate cancer can increase the production of PSA, so the test looks for raised levels of PSA in the blood that may be a sign of the condition in its early stages.

The prostate examination involves a doctor or nurse inserting a finger into the rectum (back passage) to feel for abnormalities. While it can seem like a daunting prospect, the examination doesn’t hurt and is over in seconds.