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Allan Lamb: 'Men are too embarrassed or scared to get checked'

Published: 23/11/2021

Former England cricket captain Allan Lamb opens up about his recent encounter with prostate cancer, the importance of regular health screenings and why he is encouraging everyone to take out private medical insurance.

“You should have a routine health check every year,” Allan Lamb, the 67-year-old England batting legend tells Vitality Insights Hub. “About everything, not just your prostate. If I had not gone for my annual checks, I would have never picked it up.”

During a routine health screening at the beginning of August this year, blood tests revealed Allan’s PSA levels were higher than usual. He then underwent a biopsy and MRI scan, and, by the beginning of September, it was confirmed he had early stage prostate cancer. Luckily it was treatable.

Lamb, who counts winning The Ashes with England in ‘86/’87 among his long list of achievements, has now completed his full course of radiotherapy just three months later. Now he is focused on getting on with his life. But had he not been so proactive, the situation could have been very different.

Even though one in six men in the UK suffer from prostate cancer1, they are notoriously reluctant to get checked or speak openly about it, Allan explains. This he puts down to two key factors.

“Firstly, a lot of people are embarrassed,” he says. “Secondly, I think they are too scared to find out what’s wrong with their body in case they have an operation, or something has gone wrong. They are more likely to put the blinkers on. And then the next minute, they are having serious problems. If it’s not prostate cancer, it could be something else. Remove your blinkers and get checked,” pleas Allan.

Raising awareness

He contrasts the lack of awareness that exists around prostate cancer to breast cancer, and the role that women have played in speaking out about female health issues. “We should follow their example,” he argues.

Allan sees Movember, the annual men’s health awareness event during November, as a prime opportunity to spread the word and bring attention to the issue. A public figure with a large audience, he decided to share his story on social media, receiving coverage in a number of national news outlets including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph. His hope is that this will encourage men to get regular screenings to understand their health, while also ensuring they have cover in place so they can get fast access to the treatment should they need it.

Access to care

Through his private medical insurance (PMI) with Vitality, Allan was able to see a consultant the day after his health check revealed his high PSA level. “Vitality were brilliant in helping me find all the right clinics,” he says. “I was already aware of who the best doctors are, and I was lucky these were also covered by my plan.”

Even before his diagnosis, Allan was already acutely aware of the risks associated with not screening for prostate cancer. Recently he’s lost three friends to prostate cancer, because they “didn’t detect it early enough or were too shy or embarrassed” to get checked. “Their ego got in the way,” he says.

Hitting it home

Allan admits he wasn’t particularly shocked when he received the dreaded news. “It might sound strange; I sort of knew I was going to get it – because I’d seen it happen to so many people around me.”

But it was being treated for it himself that encouraged him to speak out, especially given the limited access to care he’s witnessed during the pandemic. “That’s why I thought that [sharing my story] will hit home harder.”

Already it’s having an impact. “I’ve had loads of people write to me to say, ‘Thank you, we’ve been for a test’,” he says. “One even said he’d tested positive, so it’s good to see my story getting across to people in a way that might help. And I’ll carry on doing it.”
A keen golfer, today he runs an events business which enables him to combine his passion for sport with his love of travelling.

He also avidly uses his Garmin to track his steps, recently dropping to Gold status. “I try to keep fit and all my walking gets tracked by Vitality, so I’m working on getting back to Platinum,” he beams. If anyone can, it’s him.
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1. Cancer Research UK