Continuing my theme about assumptions and how they can railroad us, I wonder what percentage of the population assume that breast cancer kills more Australian women than prostate cancer kills our Aussie men. Before my family’s brush with prostate cancer, leading to my pro bono role as Deputy Chair of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) NSW, I assumed far fewer men were affected with the disease than women with breast cancer. I also assumed it was an ‘older man’s issue’ until my family member was diagnosed aged in his early 50’s. The fact is that more men die of prostate cancer in Australia than women die of breast cancer.
This isn’t a competition between the two – a decline in every kind of cancer is the end result we want, but it does serve to stress to men that prostate cancer is a serious health issue.
What is safe to assume is that men living in regional and rural Australia are up to 21% more likely to die of prostate cancer than their metropolitan counterparts. Their access to medical advice and treatment can be severely impacted by the tyranny of distance, often resulting in delayed diagnosis leading to terminal outcomes.
Nick my cleaner, who featured in my last chat, was diagnosed recently after years of ongoing symptoms, which were left untreated. By this time his PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test level was very high, and he is currently undergoing a regime of overarching treatment. His outlook thankfully is positive and he openly encourages all his friends, clients and acquaintances to make sure they know the symptoms and take PCFA’s advice. “PCFA recommends that men over the age of 50, or over the age of 40 if they have a family history of prostate cancer, speak to their doctor about being tested for prostate cancer at their next health check.
Nick regales not just the men in his circle but their wives and families as well. As Nick says “My prostate cancer diagnosis is affecting everyone in my family. My wife, children, my mother and our extended family and friends have been touched, and have rallied with incredible support.”
Breast cancer specialist nurses have been walking the journey with women who are suffering from the disease for many years. In recent years Specialist Prostate Cancer Nurses have helped alleviate the suffering and the apprehension of prostate cancer patients and their families and friends. Last week PCFA announced that 14 more Specialist Prostate Cancer nurses have joined the network.
Take a moment to view Professor Anthony Lowe discuss the challenges of men in regional and rural Australia. I urge every man over 50 not to assume symptoms are just an annoying distraction – please talk to your doctor who may recommend further investigation. Early detection is vital. Ladies over 50, please support your men, as well as looking after your own health. A mammogram every two years or as directed by your doctor may save your life.