Know your risks this Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Published at: 13 Sep 2019
SEPTEMBER MARKS PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH. GIVEN ONE IN SEVEN AUSTRALIAN MALES ARE LIKELY TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH THE CANCER IN THEIR LIFETIME, THE MESSAGES AROUND AWARENESS ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), there are over 200 000 Australian men currently living with a previous diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the prostate.
These abnormal cells can continue to multiply in an uncontrolled way and sometimes spread outside the prostate into nearby or distant parts of the body.
According to the PCFA, prostate cancer is generally a slow growing disease and the majority of men with low grade prostate cancer live for many years without symptoms and without it spreading and becoming life-threatening.
Know your history
For GV Health’s Mr Peter Mortensen, practising urology is in his DNA.
Mr Mortensen is the third generation of his family to become a urologist after both his father and grandfather worked in the specialised area during their careers.
Having been in the industry 33 years and at GV Health for the last 17 years, Mr Mortensen has a wealth of experience.
Mr Mortensen said that men who often presented with urinary-related issues did not generally have prostate cancer.
“These issues can be related to benign changes to the prostate,” he said.
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, in the early stages, there may be no symptoms but in the later stages, some symptoms of prostate cancer might include: feeling the frequent or sudden need to urinate; finding it difficult to urinate (for example, trouble starting or not being able to urinate when the feeling is there or poor urine flow); discomfort when urinating; finding blood in urine or semen; and/or pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips.
GV Health Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse Sonia Strachan said this could be a challenging part of diagnosing patients as they wanted them to present early to their GP to take a blood test.
The PCFA recommended men with no family history of prostate cancer who decided to have PSA testing generally underwent testing every two years from age 50 to 69, depending on any symptoms.
Meanwhile men with a family history of prostate cancer who have higher risk may start PSA testing earlier — every two years from age 40–45 to 69.
PSA, according to the PCFA, is a protein made by both normal and cancerous prostate cells.
The PSA test detects levels of prostate-specific antigen in the blood.
An elevated PSA level can indicate prostate cancer, but it can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions.
Mr Mortensen explained that those with elevated levels could now undergo a prostate MRI which showed an internal 3D picture of the prostate.
“It has 90 per cent accuracy; if it picks up any abnormalities then we would do a biopsy,” he said.
“The idea of the MRI is to reduce the number of patient biopsies.”
Ms Strachan said this highlighted the fact it was a lengthy process towards diagnosis.
She explained GV Health could do diagnostics as well as pre and postoperative care but surgery needed to be done in Melbourne.
“If patients require radiotherapy they need to travel to places such as Albury, Bendigo or Melbourne and those that need medical oncology can access this at GV Health,” Ms Strachan said.
“We have a multi-disciplinary approach and have close links with St Vincent’s Hospital.
“We can do post-operative care here and if the patient has advanced cancer then they’ll go under the care of one of our oncologists.”