MEN'S Health Week occurs in June and it seems appropriate to inform readers about prostate cancer - the most common cancer in men and one which kills about 3000 Australian men each year.
The Bathurst District Prostate Cancer Support Group is concerned that men are not fully informed about this cancer in men which has a higher incidence and mortality rate than breast cancer in women.
We feel that men should take responsibility for their health and seek advice about testing for prostate cancer, which is only curable in the early stages when there are commonly no symptoms.
According to the 2015 national guidelines approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council and developed in conjunction with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, men asking for a test should receive a full discussion with their doctor on the pros and cons of testing.
Our group believes that men should make their own decisions about getting tested after this discussion.
For those who decide to have prostate cancer tests, the general recommendation is to have a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA - a simple blood test) every two years from age 50 to age 69.
For men whose risk of prostate cancer is higher than average (for example, with a brother diagnosed with prostate cancer), regular testing can start earlier.
The recommendations suggest further testing if the PSA level is over 3ng/ml. Men should keep a copy of their tests.
The Bathurst District Prostate Cancer Support Group is disappointed to see so many men diagnosed with incurable disease.
There is only one simple test which can determine if further investigation is needed. While it is not 100 per cent accurate, it is the only test available. One cannot argue against testing because it is not 100 per cent accurate when it is the only test available.
If you don't test, then you may miss a curable cancer.
It is true that some men have the full tests and find they have a cancer that does not need immediate treatment but one which is better managed by active surveillance. If this is the case, the men involved have more options knowing about it compared with being unaware of the cancer.
Doctors are sometimes reluctant to test or treat, fearing that they may do more harm than good. In our view, this is not an argument against testing but rather a reason for careful consideration and discussion with doctors and support groups after the diagnosis is made.
Prostate cancers which require treatment may be able to be treated in more ways than one and this sometimes bewilders the men affected.
Our support group is able to offer help at this time. The medical profession are the experts in treatment, while our group has expertise in the experience.
Sharing concerns, information and fellowship helps men come to better treatment decisions and more clearly define what they need to discuss with their medical advisers.
Our advice to men considering treatment is to seek opinions from both a urologist and a radiation oncologist.
Our monthly meetings are held in the Heritage Building of Bathurst Hospital on the third Tuesday of each month starting at 5pm with a chat and tea, followed by a short business meeting and then a guest speaker. Why not join us?
If you cannot get to the meetings, we are available on telephone. Daffodil Cottage (6330 5347) will give you our contact details.