National | Prostate Cancer

Men urged to get checked during Blue September

Every day 10 men in Aotearoa are diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is the most diagnosed type of cancer, and the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the country.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is urging tāne to Do Something Blue to Help a Mate Through during September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Research suggests Māori men are 20 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with the disease than non-Māori but will die 50 per cent more often once diagnosed. PCF kaumātua Dene Ainsworth says early detection is crucial to beating prostate cancer.

“When they do present to their GP, the cancer when it’s present is likely to be more advanced, and therefore, their outcomes of a good outcome much more reduced. So it’s the old story, if we have early detection, then the outcomes for a great result are much greater enhanced.”

Ainsworth (Te Āti Awa) was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 but says it was by “sheer fluke” it was picked up so early.

“I had a GP who was extremely proactive about things like men’s health. And so I had my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test done and the short answer to that was I was found to have the very early stages of cancer. I had it treated, and I’m still here today.”

Outdated ideas about test

He wants tāne to put away the whakamā of getting a test, particularly as the often-talked-about digital rectal examination hasn’t been the main form of detection for a long time.

“I think that put a lot of men off. So if you’re going to your GP and you’re of an age where you need to be thinking about your prostate, it’s just a matter of getting your blood checked for diabetes, or cholesterol or whatever, to ask the GP to check the PSA box. Simple as that. The thing is, once you do it, you keep doing it.”

It is recommended for men over 40 to check for prostate cancer but Ainsworth suggests those with family history should consider getting checked earlier and discuss it freely among whānau.

“If there is history in your family, then the chances of it being passed to the male line is enhanced. The thing is we don’t talk about things like this, so we don’t know if there is a history in our whānau. So probably one of the key things is to start having these conversations at an early age.

“The risk is, if we don’t get checked, and we do have it and it goes undetected, it will kill you. So it’s about being proactive about our men’s health. Our wāhine have already laid down the pathway to follow - we just need to pick up that rākau and do it ourselves.

“The real thing we need to keep in mind is often, in my experience anyway, the men who have had prostate cancer haven’t had symptoms at the beginning. So there is the danger because there are no symptoms, we think everything is alright, so let’s get proactive and start getting our blood tests done.”

The Prostate Cancer Foundation is encouraging people across the country to do anything possible to raise funds to help raise awareness and support the men and their families fighting against the disease, including holding quizzes, BBQs, a blue ‘swear’ jar, or holding a golf day.

Ainsworth says the charity relies on fundraising drives to fund its activities including ambassadors visiting workplaces or social groups to discuss prostate cancer. It doesn’t receive any government funding.

Public Interest Journalism