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Pioneering cancer treatment keeps hockey star playing

Posted onPosted on 19th May

An international Mansfield hockey star diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019 has continued his active lifestyle thanks to unique radiotherapy treatment —- and is urging other men to be aware of the signs of the disease.

Peter Denley, 72, plays hockey for the England Senior Grand Masters team and was part of the England Over-70s squad that won the 2018 World Cup.

A father-of-two and grandad to four grandchildren, he was told he had prostate cancer in November 2019 following a visit to his GP, prompted by sleep issues caused by routinely waking in the night to urinate.

After a PSA test, and a series of scans and biopsies, Peter was diagnosed with locally advanced prostate cancer.

He was advised that treatment should commence quickly as the cancer had started to detach itself from the wall of the prostate, meaning there was a chance it could spread and become more difficult to treat.

However, Peter was concerned that major treatment or surgery could affect his quality of life and his ability to continue playing hockey.

So having initially gone through an NHS pathway, he used his private medical insurance and was referred to Dr Prantik Das, a clinical oncologist at GenesisCare in Oxford, who specialises in prostate cancer.

Knowing Peter’s concerns and based on his diagnosis, Dr Das recommended radiotherapy treatment on the MRIdian MR Linac. The UK’s first MRIdian machine uses innovative radiotherapy technology to treat tumours, using live images, which mean clinicians can see in ‘real time’ as they treat.

Peter began treatment in January 2020 and the greater accuracy delivered by the MRIdian meant that he needed fewer treatments — just five sessions over alternate days — so disruption was kept to a minimum and he carried on playing.

Not only does the MRIdian allow for fewer treatment sessions, but the advanced technology combines live imagery and automated beam control to avoid healthy tissue being damaged. If a tumour moves, even slightly, the treatment will automatically pause until it comes back into position. This increased accuracy means clinicians have a greater level of control and are confident in precisely targeting the tumour.

Peter said “More men need to be aware of prostate cancer and the signs of the disease. I’m urging men to know the symptoms and get checked if they notice anything — it is just a single blood test to find out your PSA level, which could be lifesaving.

“I am so thankful that I was able to access such incredible treatment at GenesisCare. Not only was the experience made as comfortable as possible, but the actual technology used for my treatment was outstanding.

“My biggest worry was not being able to play hockey again for England Over-70s, but in fact I was still able to play whilst undergoing treatment — I even played squash and hockey over the weekend in between my treatments.”

Dr Das added: “Peter’s cancer was localised inside the prostate, meaning there was no evidence that the cancer had spread to other tissues. This meant that he was eligible for treatment on the UK’s first MRIdian machine, at GenesisCare.

“I’m delighted that Peter responded to treatment well. His PSA levels are now 0.3 compared to his pre-diagnosis PSA levels of 15.

“Just as Peter did, I would always urge men to visit their GP if they experience any signs of prostate cancer, as an early detection often improves the overall outcome.”