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Former England cricketer Geoff Miller OBE's prostate cancer experience

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Nikki Brady


Since being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2021, former England cricketer Geoff Miller OBE has become passionate about encouraging men to spot symptoms and get checked as soon as possible. He recently spoke to Yorkshire Cancer Research about his experience and how he’s helping to raise vital funds for research into the disease.

Former England cricketer Geoff Miller OBE

When Geoff Miller first noticed he was finding it difficult to wee, he didn’t know that it could be a sign of cancer.

It was only through conversations with friends from the cricketing world that he realised he might have a problem.

During an accomplished playing career, Geoff represented England at Test matches and One Day Internationals between 1976 and 1984 and, after retiring in his late 30s, he became National Selector for the England Cricket Board.

When he was worried about his health, it was the friendships and connections Geoff had made through the sport that he turned to for support.

“The realisation of just how many of the cricket lads had been through the same process was staggering,” Geoff recalls. “I couldn’t believe so many men had been affected by it. I accepted that it could be cancer and so getting expert advice seemed like the right thing to do.”

I couldn’t believe so many men had been affected by it. I accepted that it could be cancer and so getting expert advice seemed like the right thing to do.”

Former England cricketer

Geoff went to see his doctor and was referred to his local hospital for tests. They showed that he had raised levels of a protein called ‘prostate-specific antigen’, or PSA, which is produced by the prostate gland.

An increased level of PSA in the blood can be caused by cancer, but it can also be caused by other prostate problems, so rather than having unnecessary tests and treatment, doctors monitored Geoff’s level annually to ensure it remained stable.

However, in the summer of 2021, Geoff’s PSA level increased significantly, and he was then referred to Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield for further investigations.

At the hospital, Geoff saw a consultant called Professor Jim Catto, who, as well as treating people with prostate cancer, also leads research projects funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research to help improve diagnosis and treatment.

Under Professor Catto’s care, Geoff had a biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of tissue from the prostate to be checked under a microscope. The biopsy confirmed that Geoff did have cancer.

“To be honest, I was relieved after my diagnosis,” Geoff admits. “When they told me there was a sign of cancer, I knew that there was a problem and that something had to be done. They could actually do something about it.”

Geoff was given three treatment options. When someone is diagnosed with prostate cancer, it doesn’t always need treating straight away. Sometimes it can grow slowly or not at all, and so the risk of it spreading and causing problems or affecting how long someone lives can be very low. For this reason, Geoff was offered an option called ‘active surveillance’, an approach that involves being checked regularly to measure the progress of the cancer.

The other options were radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells, or surgery to remove the cancer.

Geoff said: “I decided to have the cancer removed to help alleviate the mental impact that came with knowing I had cancer inside me, and I think that was the right decision. Jim Catto was absolutely fantastic with me and care I received was superb.”

Geoff was able to have his prostate removed through robot-assisted keyhole surgery, a high-tech procedure that helps patients recover more quickly and spend less time in hospital. He needed no further treatment and now has regular checks to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

“I’m absolutely fine now. I feel 100%,” Geoff says. “I’m 70 now, not 17, so you understand things might go wrong with your health. But one major thing that could have gone wrong has been rectified so I feel confident about that.”

“To be honest, I was relieved after my diagnosis. When they told me there was a sign of cancer, I knew that there was a problem and that something had to be done. They could actually do something about it.”

Following his retirement in 2013, Geoff became a respected after-dinner speaker, travelling across the UK to share tales from his career and knowledge of cricket. Since being diagnosed with cancer, he has raised thousands of pounds for charities by holding auctions at the corporate events and sportsman’s dinners he attends.

Geoff said: “What’s been done for me is something very special, and I’m just putting something back to say thank you. I feel it’s my duty to help the cause and I will do it as long as I can.

“Research into prostate cancer is absolutely vital. With so many people affected by the disease, it’s important that we move things on and continue to improve the detection and treatment. Through my keyhole surgery, I benefitted directly from the advances that come through research.”

Geoff is also dedicated to raising awareness of prostate cancer among the cricket community by sharing his own experience.

He added: “Early diagnosis is so important. The longer you leave it, the more problems are likely to occur. If you feel there is something wrong, it just makes sense to speak to someone experienced and knowledgeable and get some advice so you can get treatment as quickly as possible. No one should be afraid or embarrassed to accept and let someone know they’ve got a problem.”

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer does not usually cause symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis).

Symptoms can include:

  • Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
  • Needing to rush to the toilet
  • Difficulty in starting to pass urine (hesitancy)
  • Straining or taking a long time while urinating
  • Weak flow
  • Feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied
  • Blood in your urine or semen

Having some of these symptoms does not always mean you have prostate cancer. Many prostates may grow larger with age, due to a non-cancerous condition called prostate enlargement.

Signs that prostate cancer has spread further include:

  • Bone and back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in testicles
  • Unexplained weight loss

You should contact your GP if you are worried about any of these symptoms.

Every 17 minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire

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