Posted on Tuesday 1 October 2019
Mark Ashworth and Dr Deborah Enting
A GP who was shocked to find out that he had advanced prostate cancer despite having no obvious signs has used his love of cycling to fund research into the condition.
Dr Mark Ashworth, from Clapham in south west London, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2013.
The 63-year-old said: “I had been in excellent health, apart from a little bit of stinging when peeing. I thought it would go away if I drank lots of water, but as a precaution I had a urine infection test and a PSA test too.”
The PSA test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood, which is a protein made only by the prostate gland. High levels of PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer.
Mark, who retired as a GP three years ago, said: “My urine infection test was clear and my PSA was a little bit raised, but I cycled all the time and knew that could affect the level so I wasn’t particularly worried. I was referred to the cancer team at Guy’s Hospital and given an MRI scan, which seemed like a formality and, frankly, at the time I thought it was a bit over the top.”
He added: “I was shocked when the scan showed that I had prostate cancer and it had already spread to my spine, pelvis and to a couple of ribs. Breaking the news to my family was very tough and as a GP I felt I should have noticed something.
“But my story is very unusual because most people who have prostate cancer with secondary bone cancer would have symptoms, but I had none at all.”
The father-of-four’s treatment involved two months of super targeted radiotherapy at Guy’s Hospital. Using a TomoTherapy machine, very precise doses of radiation were shaped to the size of the tumour to avoid damaging the healthy tissue around it.
Mark said: “I had the most amazing care at Guy’s and luckily my cancer responded well. I had a tiny recurrence on the bone scan three years ago so began a short course of radium injections, and continue to have hormone therapy. It’s been six years since my diagnosis and I now have two wonderful grandchildren, I feel fit and well, and I’m enjoying a new career in medical research.”
Over the weekend Mark and two of his children, Luke and Iona, joined his consultant, Dr Deborah Enting, and a group of cyclists for the last leg of a 300 mile bike ride, from the Belgian city of Liège to the Cancer Centre at Guy's.
The team, which is made up of other cancer survivors and three medics from Guy’s, is aiming to raise £100,000 to fund two clinical research fellows at Guy’s Cancer, who will carry out scientific research into treatments for urological cancers.
This was Mark’s second fundraising challenge having already helped to raise more than £100,000 for Guy’s Cancer in 2016 by cycling with a team from Land’s End in Cornwall to London.
Mark said: “Most of my treatments have been developed over the past decade so I’m very aware that a lot more money is needed to fund research in order to find new treatments.
“Although I’m lucky not to have any symptoms, I know that my cancer is incurable and scans show that it is in seven or eight different parts of my body.
“Fitness has always been an important part of my life so doing this bike ride was another chance for me to show that you can live well with cancer and have a good quality of life. Getting a cancer diagnosis can seem like the end of the world but it doesn’t have to be.”
Dr Deborah Enting, a consultant medical oncologist, said: “It has been absolutely heart-warming to see and feel all the support from our patients, friends and colleagues who have supported this massive fundraising effort. Mark demonstrates that living a life after a cancer diagnosis can still be filled with exercise, laughter and good quality time. It is an absolute honour to have him on board supporting our cancer research.”
To support the Liège to London team, visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/liegelondon.