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Jimmy Tarbuck health: Star on his ‘pretty serious’ cancer battles – ‘You can die with it’

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The game show host, and father to BBC Radio 2 presenter Liza Tarbuck first battled cancer back in 2020, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But more recently, back in January 2022, Tarbuck was back in hospital having a cancerous mole removed from his back. But true to his nature, Tarbuck explained how his sense of humour has carried him through both of his cancer treatments.

Receiving his prostate cancer diagnosis the day after his 80th birthday, Tarbuck appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB) where he went public about his condition. Back in 2020, he said: “I have prostate cancer and I’m going to try and beat it.”

Speaking from his own experience, Tarbuck went on to urge others, especially those over the age of 50 to have their prostate checked regularly. “I think after 50, just have a test, let them have a look at you,” he said.

“There are thousands of men out there who have prostate cancer. If we can find a cure, even better. The disease is a little setback, but boys, get tested!”

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In order to tackle his disease, the star had “injections and tablets daily,” and by August 2020, from February 2020, he was having “good reports” from his medical team.

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“I have had pretty good reports,” he said in an interview. “They have said, ‘You won’t die from it. But you can die with it’.”

Statistics provided by Prostate Cancer UK states that one in eight men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, but the disease is not always “life-threatening,” especially if it is caught early. This is even more critical as in some cases, prostate cancer doesn’t cause any signs or symptoms.

For those that do experience symptoms, it is typically due to the enlarged prostate affecting the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis. This will cause the following:

  • An increased need to pee
  • Straining while you pee
  • A feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.

In some cases, these symptoms can be a sign of a non-cancerous condition known as an enlarged prostate. Although a very common problem, symptoms should not be ignored as symptoms can make it difficult for individuals to drive, be outdoors and attend social events.

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For those suffering from symptoms, various tests can detect whether it is prostate cancer or not. Most commonly this includes blood tests, MRI scans, a biopsy or physical examination.

The NHS explains that the blood test, in this case called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, measures the level of PSA and may help detect early prostate cancer. Although not used alone to diagnose prostate cancer, if an individual has a raised PSA level, they may be offered an MRI scan of the prostate to find out what is causing these levels to rise.

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If diagnosed, some prostate cancer patients do not need immediate treatment. Instead a process known as “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance,” is used to monitor the condition. This is often used due to the slow progression of the condition.

For prostate cancers that are curable, treatment options can include:

  • Surgically removing the prostate
  • Radiotherapy – either on its own or alongside hormone therapy.

For Tarbuck, prostate cancer is not the only cancer he has faced. Shortly after overcoming prostate cancer, Tarbuck had to have a mole removed that turned out to be a melanoma.

Speaking about his most recent health scare, he said: “It was a melanoma so it could have been pretty serious if they hadn’t caught it sooner.

“It turned out it was definitely cancerous but, as far as they could tell, it hadn’t spread.”

After having a small operation to remove the mole, Tarbuck said he “danced out of the hospital,” and even rejoiced when doctors said he didn’t have to be seen again for a whole year.

“When I went back for the results, the doctor took me in and said, ‘I am going to have to see you again…’ and I went, ‘Why, what’s wrong?’ and he paused before he said, ‘In a year” and I went, ‘Yippee!’ and danced down the stairs.

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“You know, I can’t say to you, ‘I haven’t got cancer’. But if they tell you that it hasn’t spread, for now, that’s the best news you can get.”

Melanoma, also known as skin cancer, is a type of cancer that can spread to other organs in the body. This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.

In most cases, the signs and symptoms of melanoma can be found using the ABCDE checklist provided by the NHS:

  • Asymmetrical – melanomas usually have two very different halves and are an irregular shape
  • Border – melanomas usually have a notched or ragged border
  • Colours – melanomas will usually be a mix of two or more colours
  • Diameter – most melanomas are usually larger than six millimetres in diameter
  • Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma.


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