Avoid Prostate Issues by Being Vigilant
Too often middle-aged men are too lazy, ignorant or inexplicably reluctant to be tested for prostate cancer that claims thousands of lives each year but produces even more cases where it is treated, often without invasive procedures, and contained.
BY NEIL CADIGAN
Prostate cancer can be a lot like the Sydney Roosters defence; it can come up quickly and knock you down with a thump if you’re blindsided. But you don’t need to be as evasive as Billy Slater to avoid being king-hit by the invidious disease.
Prostate cancer is the most common malignant cancer suffered by men, with nearly 18,000 cases being diagnosed each year and more than 3000 deaths occurring due to prostate cancer in 2012. Yet early detection and correct treatment can see men live happily and healthily with the condition in check.
A simple blood test to determine your prostate specific antigen (PSA) level can avoid unnecessary shock news with the cancer – without having to experience the dreaded “finger up the bum” that seems to be a deterrent for too many men.
Rugby league has had some high profile prostate cancer sufferers in recent years, including Darryl Brohman and Ray Warren, while current Queensland assistant coach Michael Hagan has revealed locally in Newcastle that he was diagnosed at the age of 44 but has benefited from his early awareness. All are living life to the fullest still.
Hagan (above) lost his father Tom to prostate cancer and only one of four Hagan brothers has not suffered from the disease, so he had the awareness to be vigilant early. Still, to be diagnosed so young in 2009 was a shock.
He was fortunate that he acted so early, despite showing no symptoms. Despite having to have internal radiation therapy he has kept the complaint at bay and is checked every six months.
“The treatment I had is not invasive and it hasn’t stopped me from leading an active life,” the Newcastle Knights premiership-winning coach said.
Hagan is an ambassador for the Hunter Prostate Cancer Alliance and passionate about encouraging
men to be checked well before they get into their mid-50s.
‘‘I was picked up at the earliest stage because I was quite diligent and I encourage all men to not use
excuses or to keep putting off getting a test done. There are a lot of options other than surgery, particular if you are diagnosed early.”
Alan Mair, former Panthers and Wests Tigers football manager, is a lesser known case but certainly a prime example of how ignorance or laziness can so easily pitch man past the age of 50 on a collision course with the disease – but alertness can be a saviour.
Mair, now a trainer at Penrith, was having trouble with gout and thought next time he had a break during his working week he might visit his GP and check it out. It was 2007 and he was 57 and working at Wests Tigers.
A few days later he was listening to Alan Jones’s radio program and heard men relaying their prostate experiences. The following day Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens gave him an unexpected day off so he made an appointment with his GP.
He told his doctor about his gout complaint and said if he was going to take a blood sample could he also test for prostate and any other complaints he should be tested for. If Mair hadn’t tuned in to radio earlier in the week or been given then bonus day off so soon after, he knows he might have put off a medical for months.
He’d had none of the typical signs that he had a problem with his prostate, so Mair was shocked when the doctor advised him he had cancer and needed to have surgery sooner rather than later.
“My doctor asked what prompted me to visit him and I told him it was purely through listening to people on radio,” Mair recalled. “He said ‘I think you’re very lucky’. I took that in other words if I left it too long it might have got me.
“There are various ways can get treated – surgically or not – based on the PSA reading. Mine was quite high so I was advised to remove my cancer surgically. It was a surprise as I had no symptoms at all; nothing to suggest I had it.
“The thing is that there are different treatments you can get by just speaking with doctors and discussing the options, it’s not always a case of invasive surgery.”
Like the others, Alan has regular checks but doesn’t miss a beat in how he lives his life. Darryl Brohman was diagnosed in 2010 when, like Mair, the cancer was detected by accident when he went to his doctor for what he thought was indigestion as he was having chest pains. A blood test told another story.
Brohman, then 54, nailed the male reluctance to confront possible prostate issues with his usual humour when he told a reporter: “I had that many blokes ringing me to say they didn’t want to have the operation because of concerns they couldn’t get an erection afterwards. I would say, ‘Mate, would you rather be soft above the ground or hard below it?’”
Dr Phil Brenner, urological surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, is one of the country's leading specialists on prostate cancer. He says there are two potential problems – general enlargement, which may arise with the prostate as you get older, and cancer.
“General enlargement can cause frequent urination day and night, poor urinary flow and occasionally infections or bleeding,” he said.
“Generally this can be controlled with medication but sometimes the centre of the prostate has to be cleaned out to remove the blockage.
“Prostate cancer is completely separate from ordinary enlargement, although some of the symptoms can be the same, hence the dilemma in knowing what to look out for.
“The most important way to check for prostate cancer is to have a PSA blood test done once a year with your doctor.”
Please click here to download more detailed literature on prostate cancer treatment from Dr Brenner.