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Routine check-up revealed cancer

Alex Marshall thought his health assessment would be run of the mill, but the outcome didn't turn out as expected. He tells Benenden what happened.

Alex Marshall, 48, lives in the Brecon Beacons and works as an account manager for a large international company. In July 2013, he opted to have one of the health assessments offered by Screenetics.

Having filled in his pre-screening health questionnaire, Alex underwent a series of non-invasive bio-metric assessments, including finger-prick blood tests, in-line with the standard medical protocol for a male of his age. As is usual with these health assessments, Alex received his results there and then. He has an active lifestyle and enjoys mountain biking and running, as well as regular games of golf, at least twice a week. It came as no surprise, therefore, when the first batch of tests – for blood pressure and cholesterol – confirmed he was fit and healthy. “The healthcare practitioner told me that I had the blood pressure of a teenager and the metabolic age of a 34-year-old!” Alex recalls.

Next, although this isn't standard practice for his age group, Alex was offered a PSA test, designed to detect prostate-specific antigens (PSA) in the blood. Alex's score was high, something which can be an early warning sign of prostate cancer.

“The healthcare practitioner talked me through what that means, and explained that having an elevated PSA doesn't necessarily mean the worst – there are other factors that can contribute to it,” he says. Alex was told, therefore, that a high result could be due to prostatitis (an inflammation of the prostate gland. Equally, it could simply be an anomaly, as cycling can apparently result in higher-than-average PSA readings.

Diagnosis and treatment

Alex was told to contact his GP immediately as a next step and so, three days later, he was able to show his doctor the written report from his health assessment. The GP sent a blood sample off for lab testing and the results, when they came back a few days later, again it showed elevated PSA levels.

Alex was referred to a urologist for a further PSA test and a biopsy. The biopsy confirmed, unfortunately, that cancer was indeed present.

“You are given a Gleason score and mine was seven (4 + 3), on a scale of one to 10,” says Alex. “It was just at the point where they'd probably identified it before it had spread and anything nasty had happened.”

The consultant talked Alex through the treatment options, and Alex opted for surgery, which took place in late October 2013. This was followed up a few months later with hormone treatment, then four weeks of radiotherapy as a precautionary measure.

Alex has made a good recovery, so far, and at the time of speaking to Benenden, he was waiting for his next blood test (due in December 2014).

“I said I would be hitting golf balls by Christmas – and I was,” Alex recalls. “I've tried to keep playing golf throughout this year and I've even been doing a bit of running. These last three or four weeks I'm back to what I would consider to be normal if there is such a thing!”

Without the health assessment, and the results it revealed, it's difficult to say how Alex would be feeling today, and how his condition would have developed if left untreated.

“Who knows what might have happened,” says Alex. “It's a very good example that you don't know what's inside you, and until you do know, you can't do anything about it. It's far better to know than not. I was a 48-year-old guy and didn't expect that to happen, but it can happen to anybody.”

Further information

The new health assessments provided by Benenden Wellbeing are available to everyone. There is a wide range on offer, representing both flexibility and excellent value for money. The assessments are simple to arrange and the selection of locations makes the experience surprisingly easy.