Game on for men's health

Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australian males after lung cancer.

Of concern, estimates suggest that 3152 men will die from prostate cancer in 2020, so it's probably fair to say when you talk about men's health the first thing that comes to mind is prostate cancer.

There's a lot more to a man than just a prostate gland, but such a small and inconspicuous gland can cause a bloke significant distress if he is unsure about when to start testing for prostate cancer and what the signs and symptoms and test results all mean.

The normal prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and shaped like a donut. It sits under the bladder and surrounds the tube that passes urine from the bladder. Its main role is to produce fluid that protects and feeds sperm.

There are three main problems that can occur with the prostate.

Enlargement of the prostate. This is the most common disease that affects the prostate gland. As we grow older the prostate grows, the important thing to remember is this is not cancer. It is a widespread problem that increases with age, and can cause urinary symptoms such as frequency and the need to pass urine more than twice a night.

Prostatitis is inflammation and or infection of the prostate gland. It can be very painful and have a major effect on quality of life. Prostatitis is not a life-threatening condition.

Prostatitis can affect men at any age and is often treated with antibiotics.

Prostate cancer occurs mainly in men over the age of fifty. Unlike most other cancers, small areas of cancer cells in the prostate are common in many men.

For many men, these cancer cells may be very slow growing and not present any problems or symptoms and may not be life threatening. In other cases, the cancer cells can grow more rapidly and may spread to other parts of the body.

The presence of prostate cancer is normally suspected if there is a positive result from either a blood test (PSA test) and or a digital rectal examination (DRE).

These tests are preliminary tests and are not considered diagnostic. To diagnose prostate cancer with certainty a biopsy of the prostate needs to be performed.

Both of these preliminary tests the PSA test and the DRE are not perfect tests.

For the best result both tests should be performed together.

Family history

  1. Awareness of your family history of prostate cancer is key to early diagnosis and survival of the disease:
  2. If your father or brother have ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have twice the average risk of developing the disease.
  3. If you have two or more close male relatives who have been diagnosed, your lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer increases five-fold.
  4. Your risk also increases if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, especially if a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation was involved.


By 2040 it is predicted there will be 372,000 men living with or beyond prostate cancer in Australia, representing a 68 percent increase and the greatest number of men or women diagnosed with any single cancer.

Understanding prostate cancer incidence, mortality, and survival is key to reducing the burden of cancer.

Data provides a foundation for estimating improved or reduced survival from clinical trials and other medical and scientific studies and allows policy makers and practitioners to tailor treatments and strategies for different groups, based on the risks they can identify from analysing statistical trends.

It also allows monitoring the rate of progress against set targets.

One of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia's key targets is to significantly increase the number of Australian males who are diagnosed at Stage I of the disease, so that they can improve survival prospects and eliminate avoidable deaths.

At the individual level, the knowledge that men will be at an increased risk as they age and if they have a family history, is a clear message to impart.

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