Prostate Cancer A Men-only Disease

David Squires reveals how the Chestnut Appeal is helping to spread awareness about prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a disease that will affect 1 in 11 men. This month sees a vigorous awareness campaign organised by the Plymouth-based charity The Chestnut Appeal. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK, and every year 35,000 men are diagnosed with the disease.

Rarely affecting men under 50, the majority of men with the disease are over 60, and while the cause of the condition is not known, it can at times be genetic. "Raising awareness is at the heart of everything the Chestnut Appeal does, and it's the community that can help spread the word," says charity manager Lesley-Ann Simpson.


When the Chestnut Appeal was set up in 1999, the support for men with prostate cancer across the region was virtually non-existent, and yet specialists in Plymouth and West Devon were treating as many prostate cancer patients as breast cancer patients. Consultant urologist Andrew Dickinson, one of those involved at the beginning, explains how the charity came about. "Back in 1999, with the successful completion of the Primrose Appeal for Breast Cancer, we felt that there was an opportunity to launch a similar appeal for men with prostate cancer, as prostate cancer sufferers had very little support and there was as much prostate cancer being diagnosed as breast cancer."

In January 2003 the charity was adopted by BBC Radio Devon and in a little less than two years the staff and listeners had helped raise �1 million for the appeal. A magnificent achievement, which also helped raise awareness of the male-only cancer.

"The money that was raised by the community made a huge difference," says Andrew. "The Chestnut Appeal is now involved in all aspects of diagnosis and treatments for patients with prostate cancer. The charity has provided up-to-date imaging for diagnosis and we have been able to offer Brachytherapy treatment in Plymouth and Exeter, where before patients who needed the treatment had to travel to Leeds."

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With the charity now being in a position to help across the county, Chestnut nurses have been recruited in Plymouth, Exeter, Torbay, Barnstaple and Truro. Key in the prostate patient pathway, Chestnut nurses not only provide an advocate for the patient but also help the patient make difficult decisions about treatment as well as providing supportive follow-up for both patients and partners. They offer a personal touch to patients and their families.

Vanessa Wilcox, who joined the Chestnut Unit as a Chestnut Nurse in October 2007, explains her role: "'I meet the patients at the time of their diagnosis to discuss treatment options and ongoing care. Patients and relatives can contact me at any time throughout their cancer journey for any queries, advice and support. I ensure that patients move smoothly along their pathway and are managed well within all cancer targets."

Vanessa co-ordinates the local Prostate Cancer Support Group, which meets monthly; the group not only serves as a social gathering, but also provides an opportunity for patients and their families to meet. The Chestnut Unit at Derriford Hospital currently sees 300-350 newly diagnosed patients per year.

The Chestnut Appeal today

The Chestnut Appeal is as busy as ever and recently moved to a new office and now supports two full-time members of staff. "We want to encourage people across Devon and Cornwall to raise money by holding local events," says charity manager Lesley-Ann Simpson. "We can arrange to come along or to send a Chestnut nurse to give a talk about the work of the charity and also let you know all about prostate cancer and what signs to look for."

This year the appeal is aiming to buy a new tri-plane ultrasound scanner for the unit at Derriford. At �33,000 it's an expensive piece of equipment but will be vital in helping detect prostate cancer much earlier.

"Equipment is always evolving and we aim to offer the latest and the best available to our patients," says urologist Dr Salvatore Natale. "Funds raised by the Chestnut Appeal have given us the possibility to purchase the latest ultrasound scanner and probe, which will improve the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. We hope that in the very near future, with the use of the new equipment, we will be able to introduce new types of treatments not as yet available in the region."

Case Study

Fifty years ago, at the age of 19, Roger Aldersley drove his parents to Switzerland in their four-year-old Austin Somerset coup�. Last September, Roger and his wife, Jean, recreated the 2,527-mile journey in order to raise funds for the Chestnut Appeal. Their journey took them over three passes in the Alps (Susten, Furka and Grimsel) at more than 7,000ft, and all in one day.

The route and camping gear they used were as close as possible to those used in the 1958 trip. "We wanted to stick as faithfully to the original trip as practicable. We bought a luggage trailer, found a pneumatic tent almost identical to the original Igloo, and avoided main roads," said Roger, an honorary chaplain at Derriford Hospital. The couple raised more than �600 for two charities from their trip.

Future events

• This year's Chestnut Ball will take place at Plymouth Albion on

9 March. Tickets are �30 each, which includes a three-course meal and entertainment.

• The Chestnut art auction being run by Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood is on 10 May. This will be an opportunity to buy the work of sought-after contemporary artists including Josie McCoy, Stuart Semple, Patrick Hughes, Simon Stafford and Brian Pollard.

• This year the Chestnut Appeal has managed to secure 10 bonds for the Plymouth Half marathon. The race takes place on 24 May - please get in touch if you would like to help raise money for the Chestnut Appeal.

• Pit your wits against the natural environment on a 12-nautical mile sea kayaking trip from Porthpean to Falmouth (date to be confirmed).

How you can help?

• Donate to the Chestnut Appeal: just visit our website and click on the 'Donate now' button.

• Organise a fundraising activity, such as a quiz or raffle.

• Take part in the events the charity organises -

• Tell us your story and let us help men and their families affected by prostate cancer. The more that is known about prostate cancer, the more lives can be saved.

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