Michael Parkinson’s ‘difficult’ health battles through the years

Michael Parkinson in tears as he rewatches interview

Michael Parkinson has been described in the past as “the great British talk show host,” a homage to his work as a TV interviewer and journalist.

His self-titled BBC show Parkinson, saw the star interview over a whopping 2,000 celebrities. Yet one of the star’s greatest challenges occurred off-screen when he battled prostate cancer.

At the age of 86, the star took a step back from the limelight, with only rare appearances in the public eye.

In August 2021, Parkinson appeared on ITV’s Lorraine to promote an upcoming BBC documentary. However, concerns for the star’s health soon flooded social media due to Parkinson’s frail appearance.

One viewer Tweeted: “Bit of a shock when you haven’t seen someone on the TV for a long time and then see them as an old person,” whilst others joined saying it was “horrible” to see the TV legend looking so old.

READ MORE Red flag sign of prostate cancer 43% of men ignore – expert urges to get checked

At the time of his prostate cancer diagnosis, Parkinson gave an interview explaining that it had come as a “great shock,” but he was expected to make a “full recovery”.

He added: “The cancer specialist said: ‘I will assure you, you will not die of this. I am concerned about it, of course, but I am not frightened of it.”

After two years of treatment, Parkinson was given the all clear in 2015, a year in which he also became a patron of Yorkshire Cancer Research, in order to help support better diagnosis, treatment and care for those living in the region.

Talking about the needs of cancer patients, Parkinson added: “I soon learned there is so much more to cancer than simply having access to the best treatment.

“The experience showed me how important it is that more support is provided to address the emotional, physical and practical needs of cancer patients and their loved ones.

“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was shocked. But the doctors were very positive, and I soon had a good treatment plan in place which put me at ease.”

As well as a prostate cancer diagnosis, in 2017, the star had to learn how to walk again after spinal surgery to correct two ruptured discs.


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Talking to the Sunday Mirror at the time he said: “I’ve been ill for the last five years. I’ve overcome prostate cancer, but it’s been a difficult period of my life. And my spinal operation has involved a long and unpleasant recovery.

“But in many ways what gets me through is the thought of not becoming redundant. I don’t want to be on the waste heap – and that more than anything else is the best motivation for anyone growing old.”

The star added that he had been encouraged to have spinal surgery for two months prior to actually having it, after having “kept the inevitable at bay” for a whopping 11 years.

Taking on the great challenge of learning how to walk again at the age of 82, Parkinson reassured readers there was “nothing wrong” with his mind, and he could still “stagger around” doing his work.

The signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. The prostate is a gland, usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine (wee) out of the body.

The prostate’s main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm, and when cells within the prostate start to grow in an uncontrollable way, prostate cancer develops.

The NHS explains that prostate cancer usually develops slowly, meaning there may not be signs of the condition for many years. However, some cases of prostate cancer grow quickly meaning that treatment is needed more imminently.

Symptoms that do develop are typically due to the prostate pressing on the urethra. As a result, individuals can experience:

  • Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
  • A weak flow when you urinate
  • A feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
  • Dribbling urine after you finish urinating
  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • A sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.

Furthermore, if the cancer breaks out of the prostate – known as locally advanced prostate cancer – and affects other parts of the body, other symptoms that can develop include:

  • Back pain, hip pain or pelvis pain
  • Problems getting or keeping an erection
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Unexplained weight loss.

However, Prostate Cancer UK explains that the above symptoms can all be caused by other health problems, especially a very common non-cancerous problem known as an enlarged prostate. Therefore, it is critical that individuals seek medical attention to find out the cause of these symptoms.

Common tests used to find out if individuals have prostate cancer include blood tests, physical examinations, MRI scans or a biopsy. A blood test aims to measure the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in individuals.

If diagnosed with prostate cancer, treatment options will depend on the individual circumstance. However, both most commonly used options involve carefully monitoring your condition. Further treatment then involves:

  • Surgically removing the prostate
  • Radiotherapy.

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