It all starts with a blood test, it is as simple as that.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, just 30 days in a year where men are reminded to put themselves first, put their health first, and get checked.
Put quite simply, Cabrini urologist Professor Mark Frydenberg, from the Department of Surgery at Monash University, said: “if you don’t get tested, you’ll never know”.
Prof Frydenberg is one of hundreds of doctors across the country continuing to raise awareness in the fight against prostate cancer, and on a mission to break down the barriers associated with men’s health.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed male cancer other than skin cancer, and it’s the second leading cause of male cancer deaths.
Every year in Australia almost 20,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and close to 3500 die from the disease.
Prof Frydenberg said early detection made a huge difference, with the first step just a simple blood test.
He said because prostate cancer was asymptomatic in its early stages, meaning there are rarely signs or symptoms, it was important that men aged over 50, or those over 45 with a family history, took control of their health.
“You have to have an active program of getting proper check-ups at the right age,” Prof Frydenberg said.
The blood test involves checking Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. If there is suspicion from that a further investigation and examination may be required.
Prof Frydenberg said while prostate cancer often presented symptoms including urinary frequency, slow stream and blood in the urine that was generally if the disease had advanced.
“You don’t want to be waiting to a point where it’s become an advanced disease,” he said.
“A prostate check should be part of a routine check-up, like cholesterol and heart health.
“It’s all so you can try and be around for your family and be as healthy as you can be.”
Prof Frydenberg, who has worked privately as an urologist at Cabrini for the past 25 years, said regardless of history, age or symptoms “you won’t know whether you do or don’t have a disease unless you get a check-up”.
He said the most important advice he could offer men was to remember that every step along the prostate cancer journey required its own decision.
“The first decision is whether or not to get the blood test,” he said.
“If there is an abnormality there are other investigations to go through before anything needs to be done, not everyone with a high PSA will have prostate cancer.”
Prof Frydenberg said if results were high, the test was usually repeated, followed by an MRI of the prostate before considering a biopsy.
“If you’ve had a biopsy and it is positive there’s then the question of whether you need any treatment at all, some forms of prostate cancer are small and non-aggressive. It needs to be determined what cancer they have and if it needs treatment, possibly surgery or radiotherapy. Then you can make an informed decision. Each step involves consideration.”
If there is one thing you do in September, speak to your GP about having your prostate checked. A simple test could make a world of difference.