Health professional praises wife for 'saving his life' after prostate cancer screening

Healthcare system designer calls for 'every man to get checked'

Brian de Francesca, a prostate cancer patient, with his wife Nadine at their home in Dubai.  Ruel Pableo for The National
Powered by automated translation

A 60-year-old American man, a professional in healthcare system design, underwent his first ever health check-up after his wife insisted on it.

Brian de Francesca had never previously suffered from health issues and never felt the need for a check-up, but his wife, Nadine, was adamant.

He went into the appointment not expecting there to be any significant findings – but the decision proved to be life-changing, as avoiding the health screening could have led to a fatal outcome.

Not going for regular health checks and screening is not manly, it is selfish
Brian de Francesca

“I was like most people, especially men, who keep planning to get health checks 'next week', and suddenly it's years later,” Mr de Francesca, who lives in Garhoud, Dubai, said.

The tests in May 2021, part of a routine executive check-up, revealed an elevated Prostate-Specific-Antigen (PSA) level.

“It was a surprise. I'd been doing triathlons, marathons and felt healthy,” he said.

This led to further treatments, including surgery and hormone therapy at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“If there is one takeaway from all this, it is that every man needs to get checked, regardless of how fit they feel,” Mr de Francesca said.

“It is rather ironic that I am designing the next generation of healthcare organisations around the world and yet did not do my annual check-ups.

“I needed my wife to drag me to get my PSA test. I save the lives of others – she saved my life.”

Dr Waleed A Hassen, department chairman of urology at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, sees a few hundred new prostate cancer cases each year.

“Prostate cancer is a disease of ageing. As the population in this young country grows older, we expect to see an increase in cases in the coming years,” he said.

“In certain cultures, men, viewed as providers and caretakers, often neglect their own health, seeing it as a sign of weakness to seek medical help.”

Yet prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men and screening is key in the fight against it.

“Men need to be screened from the age of 50, and earlier if there's a family history of cancer. Regular screening is crucial as prostate cancer can progress without symptoms,” he added.

According to the World Health Organisation, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the fourth most common cancer overall.

Early detection through screening, such as a PSA test, significantly improves treatment outcomes.

According to the American Cancer Centre, about one man in eight will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

A 2018 study published in the Baltimore Journal of Medicine at the National Library of Medicine reported an incidence of 4.5 per 100,000 among Emirati males.

Prostate cancer is more likely to develop in older men and in non-Hispanic black men. About six cases in 10 are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older, and it is rare in men under 40.

Mr de Francesca finished his treatment in May and today is fit, healthy and is continuing on his mission of creating innovative healthcare systems. He travelled to Rwanda this week, where he is developing a new medical school, teaching hospital and medical city.

“Not going for regular health checks and screening is not manly – it is selfish, immature and irresponsible,” he said.

“If I had not found out about my cancer when I did, my possible death would have not only negatively effected those I love, but those I serve. I now realise that men have a responsibility to better manage our health.

“Not doing so is unloving and uncaring.”

Updated: December 15, 2023, 3:00 AM