Netherlands Soccer Coach Reveals Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

By Pat Carragher - April 18, 2022

Netherlands national soccer team coach Louis van Gaal has revealed that has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. The 70-year-old shared the news on a Dutch talk show recently, adding that he had undergone 25 rounds of radiation therapy treatments.

"In each period during my time as manager of the national team I had to leave in the night to go to the hospital without the players finding it out until now. While thinking I was healthy. But, I am not," van Gaal said. "You don't die from prostate cancer, at least not in ninety percent of the cases. It is usually other underlying diseases that kill you.”

According to Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, chair of the Genitourinary Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, van Gaal’s assessment of the disease’s mortality is accurate.

Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, Genitourinary Oncology Program
Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, Genitourinary Oncology Program

“There is a saying that goes, ‘more men die with prostate cancer than because of prostate cancer,’” said Pow-Sang. “Most prostate cancer patients die from natural causes or comorbidities such as cardiac disease. Nevertheless, some cancers are aggressive. It’s important to perform a thorough assessment to identify these more aggressive cancers.”

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting men. One in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime. Men ages 45 to 75 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 270,000 men will be diagnosed with new cases of prostate cancer in the United States 2022. About 34,500 will die from the disease.

Van Gaal also mentioned that his diagnosis would involve, “a lot of management in order to go through life.

According to Pow-Sang, he is likely referring to the side effects from the 25 rounds of radiation treatment.

“There could be urinary and bowel side effects, even tough complications from radiation therapy have significantly decreased in the last several years thanks to improvements in technology” Pow-Sang said. “There’s also the need for close follow-up with testing every so often, all of the issues related to cancer survivorship.”

The former Manchester United and Barcelona manager is no stranger to cancer. He lost his first wife, Fernanda Obbes to liver and pancreatic cancer in 1994. She was 39.

“It’s part of life. I have experienced so much with disease and death, in my own family, my wife. I have probably been enriched as a person by all those experiences I have had with it.”

Van Gaal said he plans to continue his coaching duties as he has guided his country to the World Cup in Qatar, where they will face the hosts, Senegal and Ecuador in the group stages later this year.

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