A man who was told not to travel abroad for cancer therapy is grateful he ignored doctors’ advice – because it saved his life.
Thomas Allison went with his gut and travelled to Prague to treat his prostate cancer , instead of listening to health professionals who told him there was no point.
The retired farmer, from South Lanarkshire, in Scotland, was told to have radiotherapy instead, but after reading about the potential side effects he trawled the internet for alternatives.
He had already gone through years of hormone therapy since his diagnosis aged 64, but was faced with a tough decision.
It cost him £30,000 – but he has no regrets as he has now been declared cancer free.
Thomas told the Daily Record : “It all started after a barbecue with some neighbours.
“I had a few beers and I needed to go for a wee but nothing was happening and it got really painful.
“So I went to A&E and by the time I got there I was screaming.
“ Doctors told me there was a chance I had cancer and it was confirmed with a biopsy a few days later.”
Another test was also carried out to measure the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in his blood.
High levels indicate the increased likelihood of prostate cancer – a normal reading is between three and four nanograms per millilitre. Thomas’s was 172.
“I had another PSA test later on and the reading was over 200,” he added.
Traditional treatments like hormone therapy where estrogen is used to stunt the production of male hormone testosterone can encourage the tumour to grow.
There’s also external radiotherapy which blasts high-energy photon particles at the affected area.
But the downside is that it can have severe side effects as organs surrounding the cancer are damaged.
Pencil-beam proton therapy targets the tumour.
Thomas, now 67, said: “I had lots of scans – MRI, bone and CT – and luckily the cancer hadn’t spread to my bones.
“Then I went to see an oncologist in Glasgow and was told that I should get started with radiotherapy.
“I’d done a lot of my own investigations on the internet about different treatments for cancer and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have radiotherapy.
“Because of where the prostate is situated, close to the bladder and bowels, you can get a number of side effects and one is going to the toilet a lot, or even incontinence.
“I said I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on the toilet and I was looking at going for proton beam therapy.
“The doctor told me I didn’t need to do that and the conventional radiotherapy offered by the NHS was just as good.”
Thomas had made up his mind to try the Proton Therapy Centre in Prague.
He said: “Within about a month me and my wife, Doreen, had flown out to the Czech Republic for a consultation and the experts there said I was a candidate for the treatment.
“We came back home, had a chat about it and I decided that was what I was going to do.
“I’m not a wealthy man but I was never someone who went and bought fancy Ferraris and stuff like that, so I had some money saved up. I could afford to go.”
He stayed in Prague for over a month with Doreen flying out at weekends to visit.
The treatment involved having a full ‘body mask’ made to ensure he was perfectly still during daily procedures inside a high-tech cyclotron machine.
He said: “When you get told you have cancer it has a huge psychological impact and you think the worst.
“You’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.
“I’d never thought about having a PSA test at all until this happened – I can’t even remember anybody mentioning it to me.
Dr Jiri Kubes, medical director of the Proton Therapy Center, said: “Proton beam therapy has actually been around since the 1940s but is still seen very much as a new technology.”
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