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Army officer given months to live after cancer misdiagnosed as genital wart

 (Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)
(Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)

An army warrant officer who had half of his penis removed after his cancer was misdiagnosed three times by doctors has been told he may only have a year to live.

Father-of-two Gavin Brooks, 45, says the blunder left his manhood mutilated by surgeons.

But despite having an operation to remove a malignant tumour from his penis, he was given the crushing news the cancer had spread.

Now Gavin, who hopes to raise money to fund experimental treatment abroad, hopes to warn other men of the little-known disease and encourage them to check their parts.

He said: “I hope I can get some sort of treatment abroad that can help make the cancer smaller and make my lifespan longer so I can stay around as long as possible.

“My son Jorje says he’s going to lift the World Cup one day and I want to be around for that.”

Gavin, of Crewe, Cheshire, went to army doctors three times in 2021 after experiencing a tight ring of skin around his foreskin. Soonafter, a lesion appeared on the tip of his penis.

His GP diagnosed him with genital warts, but Gavin was not convinced and believed it to be Lichen sclerosus, a condition that causes patchy, discoloured, hard skin on the penis, which should be assessed by a dermatologist.

Gavin said: “The best way I can describe it was like a ring of tissue or hard skin within the foreskin.

“When I’d retract the foreskin, I would have to pull it over the head of the penis.

“The skin that connects the foreskin to the penis broke and would bleed and cause pain when I would go to the toilet. I knew this wasn’t normal and that I had to get it checked out.

“After three weeks, I went to the army doctors and I suggested it could be Lichen sclerosus.

“The army doctors thought it was a wart but I didn’t know how I’d got one as I’d been married for 20 years and only had one sexual partner in that time, so I didn’t think they were right.”

 (Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)
(Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)

Four weeks later when it hadn’t cleared, Gavin went back to the same doctor who still believed it to be a wart.

He attended his medical centre again but was seen by a different GP, who thought it might be thrush, so Gavin was given a prescription cream.

He then referred himself to a sexual health clinic, who referred him to a dermatologist, who took a biopsy from the penis.

When the result came back, he was given the crushing news he had penile cancer.

Gavin was being sent for an operation in January this year where he had part of his penis removed.

He added: “They lifted my penis up and cut it in half and took a skin graft from my leg to make a penis head, but it is flat with a hole in.

“When I woke up in hospital I was so scared at how much of my penis looked to have been removed as it had a dressing on it and a catheter fitted you couldn’t make out the full extent until all of that was removed.”

 (Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)
(Courtesy Gavin Brooks / SWNS)

Despite the operation, the cancer had spread and Gavin needed further surgery in April to remove lymph nodes in his groin and intense chemotherapy in June.

The first round of chemotherapy didn’t work and the cancer has spread to other parts of his body. He is now undergoing a second chemotherapy treatment with radiotherapy included too.

He is now seeking other treatments that are not offered on the NHS, including Immunotherapy, Proton Beam therapy and Dendritic cell treatment, which are widely used in Germany, Gibraltar and Japan in the advanced cancer stages.

He added: “I’ve spent 24 years in the army and a great amount of that time as a fitness training instructor and I use exercise to get rid of stress, now I have to be sat in a wheelchair to watch my little boy play football.

“I can’t walk long distances and I now use a wheelchair more than I walk.”

Now, he’s urging men to check their penises more regularly for symptoms and has launched an Instagram page called Screaming Cockerel to raise awareness of the disease which has robbed him of his health and mobility.

Half of penis cancers are diagnosed late and once the cancer spreads, the chances of saving the organ become much lower. Tragically, a fifth of patients die of the disease.

Signs of the cancer will typically first start at the top of the penis as either raised patches or white raised spots.

At this stage surgery can be carried out to remove the cancerous tissue, leaving the penis mainly intact. But the longer the disease left the more invasive the surgery becomes.

He added: “If I had been diagnosed earlier, I may have only ended up requiring a circumcision that could have prevented the rest of the operations and chemotherapy.

“That’s why I need to raise as much awareness for this rare and unknown cancer, so more time and research can be spent into the treatment and diagnosis of this deadly disease before it’s too late.”