Prostate cancer or prostate carcinoma is a malign tumor in the man’s prostate gland. In Germany, it is diagnosed 60,000 times per year and is the most frequent cancer condition in men. The number of new diagnoses increases every year.
However, the diagnosis is not the patient’s sure death. If it is detected at an early stage, the growing cancer still has a great chance of healing. The importance of medical check-ups also became clear to the Roth-twins when they were diagnosed with the disease at an early stage.
The twins Michael and Ulrich Roth go through life together since their birth. They both become handball players, get into the German national team, score 350 goals in total and get diagnosed with prostate cancer almost at the same time in 2009. In the following, Michael Roth talks about their mutual disease.
The malicious prostate cancer
From the age of 45, men have a yearly check-up for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer. The malicious thing about this type of cancer is that you actually don’t feel anything. I only found out through the regular check-up which I had. The PSA level was also a decisive factor.
PSA is the abbreviation for prostate-specific antigen. It is a protein that is produced by the prostate and that is detectable in the blood. A blood sample can be examined for an increased level of PSA in the laboratory. When my PSA level had increased, my urologist said that he would like to take a biopsy because he suspected that something was wrong.
That was also the first time that I thought about this disease. When the PSA level is examined and it is increased, it can also have other reasons but in principle, it is an indicator that a tumor could develop in the prostate. Therefore, it is so important to regularly do a check-up.
The biopsy led to a final diagnosis
Of course, the biopsy was relatively unpleasant because a long biopsy device is introduced into the anus which is used to remove tissue samples from the prostate. The number of samples can differ, in my case they took 12 punches. By punching into the prostate tissue several times, the doctor can find out the location of the cancer.
After the biopsy, it will take a few days until the results come in. At that time, it became clear to me that it could be prostate cancer. I had questions like: What will I do? What did I do wight and wrong before? Is the disease my fault? In the end, it’s also gene transfer. My father go the same diagnosis at 72 years old.
I tried to prepare. However, it is still very distressing to get the diagnosis. Words like chemotherapy and death, incontinence and impotence cross your mind. As a 47-year-old men, you don’t want to hear that.
The biopsy also showed that the cancer cells were still encapsulated, which is why a nerve-preserving operation was possible. During the information interview, the doctors considered that the cancer was repairable. That gave me a positive feeling. If everything has been completely removed, will only be clear a few months after surgery. We were lucky to have detected the disease at an early stage. That’s why we promote early diagnosis and precaution against cancer for men a lot, so that as many affected people as possible can get the diagnosis and treatment.
Surgery in Hamburg
Of course, we also obtained a second opinion and a third opinion about the treatment. Luckily, all three doctors were of the identical opinion, so we weren’t insecure at all. The decision for surgery was easy for us due to the doctors’ unanimity. We also informed ourselves about which clinic offered the best treatment and ended up in a specialist clinic in Hamburg. The hospital is specialized in prostate cancer. There are also good clinics in Mannheim or Munich. In the end, this is a matter of feel.
On the day of surgery, you enter the clinic as a healthy man, I didn’t have any pain yet. Afterwards I was pretty knocked out because it is a difficult and long surgery. In our case, a long incision has been made on the pubic bone. It took some time for everything to heal and normalize. Therefore, I had a lot of respect for the surgery. You should by all means trust the doctors that operate on you.
The time after surgery: Practice makes perfect
Ten days after surgery, the catheter is removed, that’s when you see whether you’re “leakproof”. That’s what it’s called, unfortunately. It means whether you’re still continent. For me, it became clear relatively quickly that everything went well. At some point, there comes the moment where you should get your erectile tissue going to find out if you’re still potent. The brochure said “practice makes perfect”. 14 days to three months after surgery, both continence and potency was working properly again.
After the surgery we didn’t choose a rehabilitation hospital, but an island. Fuerteventura. Long beaches, the sea and the sun. This did us good when we should still practice urinating. As competitive athletes, we were lucky to have pronounced muscles. Of course, we did pelvic floor gymnastics to activate and train the sphincter muscle of the bladder, and we still do that.
I recommend everyone to take a break of at least six to eight weeks after surgery. If you have the feeling that you need more time, take it by any means. The body needs some rest after such a severe operation.
Draw strength in hard times
I got a lot of motivation and strength from my family, my children and of course Uli, my twin brother. It is reassuring to have someone who supports you in every life crisis. My twin brother Uli was diagnosed with prostate cancer only shortly after. After my initial shock, he had the advantage to know where he had to go and what to do next. He took the same course that I had: surgery in Hamburg, holiday in Fuerteventura.
Even ten years after the operation, I’m still confronted with the disease on a daily basis. During urination for example or when I have to pay attention to coming home in time when I drank a few glasses of wine because the sphincter muscle gets tired. These are all things that you can live with and that can be arranged. My brother and I were always on the fast lane concerning work and private life. Now we learned that we don’t always have to be the last ones at a party and don’t have to accept every job. My twin brother and I take more time off now.
Something else that gave me strength is my new task to openly deal with my disease. I talk about it in interviews, reports and on TV to motivate men to go to regular check-ups. Our doctor said: “The Roth twins saved many men’s lives” – and we really enjoy that.
Prevention saves lives
I would say that we did a lot right. The first thing that you can do right is to visit the urologist once a year to get tested. There are many men that are ashamed. Some are also afraid that something could be found. That’s why we also address women to motivate men to visit the urologist and to do preventive check-ups. Men can be a bit grouchy about this subject. They are also not monitored by doctors after the examinations during their childhood. Women are accompanied by their gynecologist for many years and their attention is thus automatically drawn to cancer screenings.
You really have to advertise that men should have annual examinations no later than at 45 years old. Then you have good chances that prostate cancer, testicular cancer, kidney cancer or liver complaints are detected early. Too many men still die every year because they don’t have check-ups. That could actually be prevented.
My brother and I wrote a book for this purpose: Our life – our disease, a biography about prostate cancer. Ten years later, we republished the book as survival guide Hurray, we are still alive! We survived cancer. We only succeeded because we had the check-ups!
All pictures: private