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Phillip Crawley - You need to take your head out of the sand

John Tory, host of the John Tory Show on Newstalk 1010, Rocco Rossi, President & CEO, Prostate Cancer Canada and Phillip Crawley,  Publisher and CEO, Globe and Mail,  at the 2013 Vaughan Wake Up Call Breakfast
As Publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail, Phillip Crawley is considered one of Canada’s premier newspapermen. Over the years he has worked for the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black. But even this media veteran was not prepared for the news delivered in February 2005: at the age of 60, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “It was a bit of a surprise,” says Crawley, now a volunteer spokesperson for Prostate Cancer Canada. “There is no family history that I am aware of.”

If Crawley hadn’t been suffering from a high temperature of unknown origin, he may not have been diagnosed when he was. His doctor took a blood sample to check for infection and found, coincidentally, that his prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels (a prostate cancer marker) were high. “My doctor said the high PSA reading may have been a temporary spike caused by the fever and that we should wait and see and test again later.” When the second sample again came back higher than normal, Crawley was sent for a biopsy.

The biopsy showed that, on the Gleason Score, Crawley registered a 7 and was positive for prostate cancer. He decided to talk to several experts in the field to understand the full gamut of options better, from active surveillance to brachytherapy. After about a month of inquiry, Crawley decided that surgery was his “best policy” and chose to go with Dr. Neil Fleshner, an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital and professor of urology at the University Health Network in Toronto. “Dr. Fleshner has taken good care of me over the past eight years,” Crawley says.

The surgery and hospital stay took all of one day and was painless, he says. Crawley did, however, find the after-effects annoying – from wearing a catheter to the fatigue that naturally accompanies surgery. “However, I was back at work after three weeks, and back to running within three months,” he says.

Crawley wasn’t the only one affected. His wife Stephanie lost her father to prostate cancer, so she was already familiar with the disease. “It’s very important that your partner has an understanding of what is happening regarding the short- and long-term effects to reduce the level of anxiety,” he adds. “In my case, Stephanie was most supportive.”

While Crawley is happy that he has survived, he stresses the importance of every man mustering the courage to speak to his doctor to get checked for prostate cancer after the age of 40 – or earlier if there is a family history. “You really need to take your head out of the sand and become aware of the risks,” he emphasizes. “If it is caught early, prostate cancer does not have to be fatal. Canada has excellent medical expertise and a range of choices. We have made great progress in just the last five years.” Besides, he adds, you never want cancer to get the better of you.

Phillip Crawley serves on the board of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. His other volunteer activities include work with the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation and the Charter for Business, which raises funds for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Canada. He has also participated in many cancer fundraisers including The Ride to Conquer Cancer and the CIBC Run for the Cure.

Relevant Links:
Get more information about the PSA test
Learn more about prostate cancer risk factors
Find out what's happening during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
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