29 December 2011

Opinion Piece: Simple Test to Save a Bloke's Life


Courier Mail

Nearly 23 years ago, my father Morrie Swan passed away from Prostate Cancer at the age of 67. It was a terribly sad time – especially because he suffered a lot of pain.

I was 35 when he passed away, and like most men around that age, I got on with things and concentrated a lot on my career and starting a family.

I didn't think much about my own vulnerabilities until some 12 years later, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I'm still alive today, and my children still have a dad, because I was diagnosed early by way of a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test.

Even though I'd watched my father die a really painful death from prostate cancer, I never thought I'd get the disease myself.

I had no idea that if a first-degree relative – your father or brother – experiences prostate cancer, your chances of getting the disease increase from one-in-ten to one-in-three.

And I didn't know what the symptoms were. I nearly paid the ultimate price for that ignorance – which is why it's vital we do everything we can to promote the importance of men getting tested for prostate cancer.

That's why I'll be heading along today to the Princess Alexandra Hospital to have a look at the great work that's being done there.

For many Aussie blokes, our aversion to doctors and looking after our health is often matched only by our love of footy and a few beers.

But it doesn't take much. The PSA test that I took allows men, particularly those with a family history of the cancer like myself, to get checked out and, importantly, find out early if they do have the cancer.

Sadly every year in Australia an average of over 3000 men lose their lives to Prostate Cancer, which works out to something like one death every 3 hours of every day.

Tragic figures which, less than a week after Christmas, should be pause for thought for any father reading this to contemplate.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia have done a great job over the years promoting the PSA test and getting more Australian men tested.

Since establishing itself as a lifesaving method of early prostate cancer diagnosis in the 1990s, the PSA test has had its critics, usually a noisy minority at best.

Tragically, the vital importance of PSA testing has been undermined recently due largely to a widely criticised report released overseas this year.

PSA testing saved my life. So I have no doubt that we can't let dads and granddads avoid a potentially life-saving PSA blood test because of this report.

When there is so much practical evidence of the lives saved by the PSA test in every community across Australia, it's really worrying that all the progress over the last decade in educating Aussie blokes about getting themselves checked out could be at risk.

The message is simple: if you have a family history of prostate cancer or are over 50 years of age, speak to you doctor about getting tested for prostate cancer.

Make it a priority in 2012 – it's a new year's resolution that could save your life.