Rugby legend Rutherford urges men to get checked for prostate cancer

John Rutherford, the former rugby player who helped Scotland secure their first Grand Slam in nearly six decades, has urged men to get tested for prostate cancer after revealing he has been successfully treated for the disease.
Scotland rugby great John Rutherford. Picture: Ian GeorgesonScotland rugby great John Rutherford. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Scotland rugby great John Rutherford. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The 62-year-old, regarded as one the nation’s best ever players, decided to visit his GP last May after losing his brother to prostate cancer four months previously.

Despite the fact he did not feel ill and had no symptoms, a test of his prostate-specific antigen levels (PSA) and a subsequent biopsy revealed he too had cancerous cells, a discovery which caused his world to “fall apart” for a while.

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However, Rutherford credits that early diagnosis with saving his life and has called on all men over the age of 50 to get tested.

“I may never have been here to see the Six Nations if I hadn’t been diagnosed early with prostate cancer,” he said.

“I have had a successful operation to remove the cancer cells before it spread which I suppose you could say has saved my life.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Rutherford said his brother, Billy, was diagnosed too late, which led to his death at the age of just 59.

“Billy fell ill and didn’t know what was wrong,” he explained. “He was having problems with his water works and thought it was old guys trouble and never thought twice about it. A lot of people don’t.

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“When he went to his doctor he was shocked to find out he had advanced prostate cancer. It had got into his bones but it was diagnosed too late to save him. If he had been tested earlier it could have saved his life.”

That devastating loss, coupled with his own experience, has inspired Rutherford to speak out in the hope of raising awareness of prostate cancer.

The disease can affect one in 10 men in Scotland and is the most common cancer amongst men in the nation. However, not all men will have any symptoms in the early stages, according to the Prostate Scotland charity.

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Rutherford, who secured his place in Scottish sporting history by lining up in the 1984 Grand Slam winning team, discovered he had the disease after a visit to his GP. The diagnosis, he recalled, left him in “utter shock.”

He explained: ‘I went in there pretty confident I would be given the all-clear despite Billy getting prostate cancer as I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Thankfully, the cancer had no spread, and the former British and Irish Lion had his his prostate removed last November at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.

Now, he hopes others will take the same precautionary steps by visiting their doctor.

He added: “I always thought cancer was for others, not me. I know a lot of people think like that too.”