by WAYNE SWAN
Most men will tell you that September is all about footy finals, but what they won’t tell you is that it’s also the month of raising awareness for prostate cancer…
I’m sure Mamamia readers are well aware of the Man Flu, or as my wife likes to call it ‘an exaggerated cold’. It’s the one ‘sickness’ that us men will constantly complain, whine and tell everyone about.
Man Flu aside, I’m sure you know that men don’t like talking about their health, let alone getting tested for an illness they may not even have, particularly prostate cancer.
And I would know because I almost paid the biggest price a person can ever pay for that ignorance. I almost paid with my life.
Like many men I didn’t know what the symptoms of prostate cancer were and I never thought it would happen to me.
At the age of 67 my dad passed away from prostate cancer after an excruciating battle. I was about 35 at the time, and watching him lose that painful battle was an extremely difficult time for me as it was for my family. Like most men at that age I got on with things, concentrated on my career and starting a family. I don’t think I ever thought about being diagnosed with it, I didn’t even know what the symptoms were!
But about 12 years later it happened to me. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
I still remember the day my doctor called me and told me the symptoms I had been noticing were due to the same disease that my father had lost his life to. It’s fair to say I was shit-scared. Scared because I saw the pain my dad had gone through, but mostly terrified about having to sit down and tell my wife and kids that I had cancer.
I was diagnosed by way of a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test.
The doctor gave me three options: to do nothing (I ruled that out); have immediate treatment which involved some radical surgery and risks, or to wait a while. I chose surgery.
I’m lucky, early detection saved my life, but for many men it’s a different story.
Each year in Australia we see around 20,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer which kills close to 3,300 men. This exceeds the number of women who die from breast cancer annually. Each day about 32 men learn that they have prostate cancer, and one man every three hours will lose his battle with it.
Awareness is the first step, so I’d encourage you bring it up with the men in your life – whether it’s your husband, boyfriend, dad or brother. Now I’ll admit that prostate cancer isn’t exactly the most appealing topic to be talking about, but there’s nothing appealing about being diagnosed with it.
A lot of blokes don’t want to even think about it because they think it automatically means reduced sexual function.
In the first place, that’s not necessarily right. And in the second place, as I often tell blokes when I’m out and about spruiking awareness of this deadly disease, you can’t have sex in a coffin!
[Although when I put this reality to one bunch of blokes on a worksite a few years ago, one guy up the back piped up: I have!]
Sometimes us blokes just need a bit of a nudge – so start by sending him a link to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s website http://www.prostate.org.au and get the conversation about prostate cancer started today. Early detection and a PSA test saved my life; I know it can save many more.
Wayne Swan is the Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer in the Australian Government.
Are the men in your life diligent about medical check ups? What do you do to encourage them to go to the doctor and get checked?