Ken Hom speaks publicly of prostate cancer for the first time

The world-renowned chef, regarded as the final word in Chinese cuisine, decided to speak out about his journey with the disease in a bid to ensure other men become more vigilant and act upon any concerns.

Hom, well-known in the UK following a series of respected BBC cookery programmes and a number of best-selling cookbooks, was diagnosed in mid-March this year following a routine annual check up in Thailand, where he spends much of the year. The results of a PSA blood test, commonly used to detect a problem with the prostate, were much higher than the year before. When a further test two weeks later revealed an even higher score, Ken's doctor ordered an immediate biopsy.

Ken's cancer was an aggressive form of the disease, but luckily contained within the prostate gland.

He said: "My initial reaction was one of shock. No one wants to find out they have a time-bomb in their body. I swim almost daily, eat a healthy diet, drink lots of green tea and had no symptoms - cancer was the last thing on my mind."

Ken, like all men diagnosed with prostate cancer, faced a difficult decision over which treatment option would be best for him. Ultimately, he opted to have Proton*, a course of radiotherapy treatment, in southern Japan, undergoing 37 sessions in two months - with his partner at his side all the way. His close circle of friends emailed him constantly with messages of support.

Ken said: "I chose Japan because my Japanese doctor was able to get me immediately into the Proton programme. I was lucky. I had treatment choices because they caught the cancer early, but another year on it may well have been too late. Every man thinks cancer can't happen to me, but it can, and we all need to have regular health checks and realise how serious this disease can be."

Luckily Ken emerged from the treatment, which can cause urinary and bowel problems, without side effects, although he will need to have a PSA test every three months for the next ten years to track his progress. If anything, Ken's journey with prostate cancer has reinforced his Zen attitude and the positivity that goes with it.

The 61-year-old chef, who lives between Paris and Bangkok, is determined to speak out publicly and ensure other men become more aware of the disease. Prostate cancer is a complex disease, and similarly to Ken, many men will not display any of the symptoms, such as urinating more frequently in the night, a weak or reduced urine flow, or a feeling that the bladder has not emptied properly, which can all be indicators of the disease.

"I have chosen to speak out about my experiences of prostate cancer to try and help other men be less afraid if they are diagnosed and to seek help as soon as possible. It is terribly important to catch aggressive prostate cancer early. All men need to know that prostate cancer exists. Let's not walk around with blindfolds on and let machoism be the death of us," he urged.

Speaking about Ken's diagnosis, John Neate, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, explains: "We are hugely grateful to Ken for taking the brave decision to speak out about his own diagnosis of prostate cancer and we hope that his experience will inspire many men to start thinking about the disease and whether they may be at risk too. Although prostate cancer is more common in men over 50, it is vital that all men take control of their health and find out about the facts. We encourage any man who may be concerned about any aspect of prostate cancer to visit their GP."

*Proton is a radiotherapy treatment, not currently available in the UK. Further information is available on request.