The death of TV presenter Bill Turner from prostate cancer at the age of 66 has saddened many, but the publicity his campaigning on awareness about the disease has had on outcomes for other patients has been crucial in saving the lives of other men, the head of Prostate Cancer UK has said.
Chief executive if the charity Laura Kirkby said: “Thousands and thousands of men have come forward as a result of him helping us raise awareness of Prostate Cancer UK – and him just telling his story.”
She added: “He has saved lives – 11,500 men die in the UK every year of prostate cancer and he would have helped some people come earlier [for testing] so that they could have avoided that.”
Mr Turnbull, who was first diagnosed in 2017, became an ambassador for the charity and helped publicise early signs of the disease, which has led to Ms Kirby crediting him with prostate cancer now being the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the UK.
She added that the highest risks are among men of any race over the age of 50, black men over the age of 45 and anyone who has a family history of the condition.
Ms Kirby said Mr Turbull was “passionate” about telling men to get checked because his diagnosis had come too late to prevent the onset of the disease. As prostate cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, it is easy for patients to go through life unaware of the problem.
The comments made by Ms Kirby were echoed by NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard. She said: “Bill’s openness in speaking about his prostate cancer encouraged thousands more men to come forward for help earlier than they may have done otherwise.”
Overall, no fewer than one in eight men will contract prostate cancer, making it potentially a huge killer.
Early signs can include difficulty urinating or emptying the bladder, a need to go more frequently, a weakflow of urine and blood in urine or semen. This do not always mean prostate cancer is the cause; a benign enlarged prostate can cause these problems without actually leading to cancer.
The campaign led by Bill Turnbull has not been the only one running this year aiming to increase awareness about prostate cancer.
Another featured the ‘Blue for Bob’ appeal staged on the Saturday of this year’s cricket Test match at Edgbaston when England played India in July, when fans would wear blue and remember the life of Bob Willis, the former England and Warwickshire player who died from the condition in 2019.
As well as increasing awareness, the day was set up to help raise money for the Bob Willis Fund, which has worked to create new means of testing for prostate cancer, often designed to be very easy and user friendly to help men, who can show a notorious reluctance to go to the doctor.
A key concern for the fund is that, as yet, there is still no one single test reliable enough to form the basis of a national screening programme – something the body aims to change.