Battling The Stigma Of Getting Checked For Prostate Cancer: Allan’s Story

    Published: 24 November 2021.

    This Movember we spoke to former England cricket captain, Allan Lamb, about his recent encounter with prostate cancer, the importance of regular health screenings especially for men, and why he encourages everyone to take out health insurance.

    During a routine health screening at the beginning of August, blood tests showed that Allan’s PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels were higher than usual. Within a month he was sent for a biopsy and MRI scan to investigate, with results confirming that he had early stage prostate cancer. Fortunately for Allan, he was told that it was treatable.
    Just three months later and Allan has completed his full course of radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, and seen that he has now gone into remission. Now he is focused on getting back on track with life, but is using his experience with prostate cancer to urge all men to get routinely checked because it was what allowed him to be diagnosed sooner rather than later.

    The importance of getting checked

    Allan has always been healthy and active, with winning The Ashes with England in 1986 and 1987 just one of his many incredible achievements, but his experience proved to him that cancer can happen to anyone. And had Allan not been so proactive, the situation for him could have been very different.
    “You should have a routine health check every year. About everything, not just your prostate. If I had not gone for my annual checks, I would have never picked it up.” Allan explains.
    Even though one in six men in the UK suffer from prostate cancer , they are notoriously reluctant to get checked or speak openly about it, Allan continued. This he puts down to two key factors.
    “Firstly, a lot of people are embarrassed,” he says. “Secondly, I think they are too scared to find out what’s wrong with their body in case they have an operation, or something has gone wrong. They are more likely to put the blinkers on. And then the next minute, they are having serious problems. If it’s not prostate cancer, it could be something else. Remove your blinkers and get checked.”

    Raising awareness

    He contrasts the lack of awareness that exists around prostate cancer to breast cancer, and the role that women have played in speaking out about female health issues. “We should follow their example,” he argues.
    Allan sees Movember, the annual men’s health awareness event during November, as a prime opportunity to spread the word and bring attention to the issue. A public figure with a large audience, he decided to share his story on social media, receiving coverage in a number of national news outlets including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. His hope is that this will encourage men to get regular screenings to understand their health, while also ensuring they have cover in place so they can get fast access to the treatment should they need it.
    How health insurance made a big difference
    Through his Vitality health insurance, Allan was able to see a consultant the day after his check revealed higher PSA levels. “Vitality were brilliant in helping me find all the right clinics,” he says. “I was already aware of who the best doctors are, and I was lucky these were also covered by my plan.”
    Even before his diagnosis, Allan was already acutely aware of the risks associated with not screening for prostate cancer. Recently he’s lost three friends to prostate cancer, because they “didn’t detect it early enough or were too shy or embarrassed” to get checked. “Their ego got in the way,” he says.

    Hitting it home

    Allan admits he wasn’t particularly shocked when he received the dreaded news. “It might sound strange; I sort of knew I was going to get it – because I’d seen it happen to so many people around me.”
    But it was his personal experience that really encouraged him to speak out, especially given the limited access to care that he’s seen throughout the pandemic. “That’s why I thought that [sharing my story] will hit home harder.”
    Already it’s having an impact, which just goes to show how important it is for men (and women) to talk openly about getting checked, and cancer. “I’ve had loads of people write to me to say, ‘Thank you, we’ve been for a test’,” he says. “One even said he’d tested positive, so it’s good to see my story getting across to people in a way that might help. And I’ll carry on doing it.”
    A keen golfer, today he runs an events business which enables him to combine his passion for sport with his love of travelling. He also avidly uses his Garmin to track his steps, recently dropping to Gold status. “I try to keep fit and all my walking gets tracked by Vitality, so I’m working on getting back to Platinum,” he beams. If anyone can, it’s him.

    Read Georgie’s story: staying positive through breast cancer.

    As a Vitality member, you will get cancer cover or serious illness cover against cancer. Available with qualifying health insurance or life insurance plans. Log in to Member Zone for the details.

    We know that everyone worries about cancer, which is why we partner with Check4Cancer to ensure members have access to early cancer detection checks and genetic services testing. These services have continued to stay open during the pandemic and VitalityHealth* members who think they may have a symptom of cancer are urged to refer themselves, speak to a Vitality GP or their NHS GP now. Log in to Member Zone for more details or find out more about Vitality health insurance and cancer cover.

    *Qualifying members can access discounted checks and risk assessments for bowel, breast and cervical cancer. Check4Cancer’s team of specialists have extensive clinical expertise and evidence-based services that are supported by audit data.

    Do not delay getting yourself checked by a GP. Detecting cancer early can increase the chance of survival and potentially prevent the spread of cancer, which means treatment is more likely to be successful.