House debates

Monday, 9 September 2019

Private Members' Business

Prostate Cancer

11:23 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on this motion. As a doctor in this chamber, I feel it is important to constantly raise awareness of one of the more forgotten areas of health, and that is prostate cancer. There are very few families in this country that haven't been affected by prostate cancer, and we now know that early diagnosis and treatment is vital if our survival rates are going to improve. There are much better treatments now. There are much better ways of diagnosing prostate cancer. We now know that many men who previously had advanced prostate cancer could have been saved by early screening, and with better diagnosis and better treatment.

There are currently 120,000 men living with prostate cancer in Australia who have been diagnosed, and I say that because there are many men who have prostate cancer that will never actually be diagnosed. In 2019 alone, 3,300 men have died from the disease. Studies have shown that men who are most at risk of developing prostate cancer are those who are over 50 and have a positive family history of the disease. Symptoms include difficulty passing urine, incontinence, lower back pain, pelvic pain or other bone pain. But sometimes prostate cancer can be asymptomatic until very late. While the reality of prostate cancer is harsh, I must emphasise that, with appropriate medical technology, readily available to us today, the recovery rate for prostate cancer is very good, especially if the cancer is caught early. The five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is now over 90 per cent. However, the rate at which older men actually get tested and seek cancer screening requires a lot of work. There are risk factors that we know about, such as cigarette smoking. We know that there are genetic risk factors. We also know that, with appropriate screening and management, long-term survival could be better still.

A leader in this space is Mr David Dyke, a prostate cancer survivor, who has documented his journey of diagnosis, treatment and recovery very well. He has a very popular YouTube video of his diagnosis et cetera. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer after regular PSA screening. He showed no symptoms. What I found very interesting and valuable about Mr Dyke's journey is that he didn't shy away from sharing with the general public about the rehabilitation process, and I commend him for this. It's not always easy for us men to share the really tough parts of our lives, and it's too often that we shy away from men's issues, particularly men's health issues. David demonstrated the importance of men taking their health seriously, and he continues to do so in his advocacy. I'd encourage all members of this chamber to watch and share Mr Dyke's YouTube documentary titled David Dyke Prostate Journey: From Diagnosis to Rehabilitation.

It's important that we actively combat the attitude that many men maintain in being blase about their health. We need to encourage men to be proactive with PSA screenings, at both an individual and a government level. PSA screening is just that—it's a screening test—and the interpretation of that test needs to be appropriately nuanced. I encourage all men who are concerned about having PSA screening to discuss this with their general practitioner. It is a nuanced thing and it often depends on repeat testing over a period of time, with appreciation for the other risk factors, including genetics. PSA testing is not the be-all and end-all of prostate cancer screening but it is part of the equation, and men need to discuss it with their general practitioner or with their urologist.

We need to continue the trend towards regular testing and proper follow-up of people with possible prostate cancer. There is better technology now, with MRI prostate screening, and I would encourage the government to allow Medicare listing for MRI prostate screening as an important advancement in the further management and assessment of men with prostate cancer. A prostate-specific antigen test is used with screening, as well as digital rectal examinations, ultrasounds and MRIs. I encourage all men over the age of 50 to be regularly screened.

This month is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage all men to participate by raising awareness. I am very grateful for the opportunity to talk on this matter in the House. It's a great thing that we can screen and that survival rates are getting much better.

11:28 am

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge the member for Macarthur for bringing such an important topic into the House. This is a key area that requires a better understanding across the population. We often talk about prostate cancer. A challenge for men is to look at some of the symptoms and to seek early treatment for those symptoms as opposed to leaving it until the cancer has progressed to a point which makes the recovery process much more challenging. Whilst technology and testing have substantially improved, the issues of awareness and the need to make a decision early and seek advice remain.

I have met with many organisations and men's groups where men are seeking support and intervention at a time in their life in which they have experienced prostate cancer but have let it get to a point where some of their treatment has been most challenging. They are left with the effects of tissue removal, which sometimes damages nerve endings within the region, impacting on their quality of life in many senses. But the work that Minister Hunt did in freeing up additional funding for prostate cancer nurses has made an incredible difference to both the informative element of the treatment process and the explanation to men about what they're going to go through with the treatment—and, equally, how they need to give some thought to planning their lives in the context of subsequent treatment.

Often one of the challenges we have is that, as men, we have the mindset that we are immortal on many fronts and that a slight pain is something we can ignore for a period of time—that is, until a prognosis is undertaken and suddenly you're faced with the challenge of having to have medical intervention. The treatment afterwards is often also debilitating to quality of life and has an impact on both the social and the emotional wellbeing of individuals. When, over the years, I've talked to men of their experiences, they've often talked about the lack of parallel supports that are often necessary when you have medical interventions of this nature. And it's absolutely critical that, in developing awareness through this motion, my colleagues take the step of making sure that they have tests at intervals within their lives so at least they have some certainty that the onset of prostate cancer isn't something that's going to impact or influence their quality of life.

Robotics has made a difference—there's much more accuracy—but so too has having access to large centres in which treatment occurs. One of the gaps that we often see when we read any data on health is that in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia diagnosis is sometimes delayed because of limited access to the right medical GP practices or primary healthcare providers and the subsequent testing. But one thing that we have done exceptionally well under various governments is to put a focus on prostate cancer in a way that we've not done in the past, and the points that you, Member for Macarthur, made around medical intervention are important.

The flip side to this is that the social and emotional wellbeing supports need to be there, because, unless you have supports, particularly if your levels of literacy are problematic and you don't clearly understand complex medical elements, then the fear aspect of cancer, particularly prostate, may mean that you don't totally grasp what is required and what the potential side effects might be in terms of quality of life. But we're getting better. Hospitals are providing levels of support on a much better basis. Models of care now mean that we see parallel supports in place to ensure that we give an individual the best possible journey through life and often recovery.

11:33 am

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I wish to place on the record our thanks to the member for Macarthur for moving this very important motion and bringing this issue to the national parliament. There's no member of parliament better qualified to move a motion such as this, and I congratulate him for doing so.

Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in Australia, and it's our third most deadly. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, but the disease impacts the lives of Australian men and their families and loved ones every day of the year. More than 3½ thousand men will die from the disease throughout the year, more than 20,000 Australian men will be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer and around 200,000 are living with a previous diagnosis. Prostate cancer is often a slow-growing disease, and the majority of men with low-grade prostate cancer live for many years without any symptoms and without it spreading and becoming life-threatening. However, if you're afflicted with a high-grade disease it spreads quickly and can be lethal very quickly.

The causes of prostate cancer, whilst they are unknown, have two key factors that men need to be aware of. First is the age of a person. Age is often linked to an increasing chance of developing prostate cancer. The risk of getting prostate cancer by the age of 75 in Australia is one in seven men, while the risk of a male being diagnosed with prostate cancer by his 85th birthday is estimated to be one in six. The chance of developing this cancer increases with age.

Another key factor in terms of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is of course, like many cancers, family history. This also plays a key role. Men with a male first-degree relative with prostate cancer have a higher chance of developing it than men with no such history. The risk increases again if more than one male relative has prostate cancer. So it pays to ask questions amongst paternal relatives within your family regarding the history of this often deadly disease. Risks are also higher for men whose male relatives were diagnosed when they were young.

It's vital that men take their health seriously. Let's face it: in decades gone by, men have tended to try to soldier on when health ailments come on, ignoring them rather than seeking help at an early stage. A lot of Aussie blokes don't get tested and they find out they have it when it's too late. Screening tests are available to help detect cancer in people who don't have any symptoms. In the past, many Australian men may have been turned off by the thought of the snap of the glove and what follows after that, but it couldn't be any further from the truth in terms of the way that screening is undertaken in Australia at the moment. Prostate cancer PSA tests are blood tests which can detect prostate cancer in the bloodstream, removing the need for those more invasive tests of the past.

But, unlike testing for bowel, breast and cervical cancers, there is no national screening program for prostate cancer. The Commonwealth only funds 28 prostate cancer specialist nurses across the nation. It's been great to see in recent years, through the Big Aussie Barbie and the group that's been set up in the parliament—the parliamentary friendship group to raise awareness of prostate cancer—specialists coming to Canberra on an annual basis to provide a PSA test for people who work in this building. In the past, of course, there have been cases where people have undertaken the test and have, unfortunately, found out that they were suffering from this ailment. But it's been diagnosed early and that made sure they could get the appropriate treatment.

Only one in three men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer can access some of the services. Men and their families deserve the best possible care and support when they're diagnosed with prostate cancer. We need to be doing more as a nation to fight our third most deadly cancer. If you're a bloke in your 40s or 50s, please talk to your doctor about doing the PSA blood test. It might just save your life.

11:38 am

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to follow the member for Kingsford Smith in talking about this very important motion in relation to prostate cancer awareness and care, something I've done in this chamber with colleagues right across the chamber in the past.

We know, quite obviously and as has been mentioned, that prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in Australia, with approximately 3½ thousand Australian men dying of this insidious disease each year. In fact, as we know, more men die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer, hence the importance of raising awareness of prostate cancer. The risk of getting this cancer by the age of 75 is, I'm told, one in seven men, and by the age of 85 this increases to one in five.

It's absolutely vital that men right across the country take their health seriously. I am one of many so fortunate as to have loved ones around me not only reminding me to do so but demanding that I do so. In that regard, I too acknowledge the efforts of Mr David Dyke. As the member for Perth has mentioned previously in this chamber and in the Federation Chamber, Mr Dyke works so hard as a men's health advocate to increase the awareness of prostate cancer—in his case, I'm advised, as a prostate cancer survivor. It's that sort of work around the nation that, rightly, is focused on raising awareness.

In my community of Toowoomba in the electorate of Groom just last Friday the annual Wagners It's a Bloke Thing fundraising luncheon was held for the ninth time. This year the event broke all records, raising an amazing $2,049,600 for the It's a Bloke Thing foundation, which is all about providing care for people with prostate cancer; creating, supporting and growing awareness programs; and raising funds for research into this disease. This is one of the nation's largest daytime fundraising initiatives. This year, to underpin this focus on awareness and the interest that we are growing in awareness around prostate cancer—not only here but around the world—the Irish musician and former X Factor Australia judge Ronan Keating flew in to make a special appearance at this particular even in Toowoomba. Ronan's mother died of breast cancer, so he's keen to support any cause that would raise awareness and encourage anyone to seek help. He performed at this event free of charge. Former Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe was another special guest at this same event, such is the significance of people recognising the importance of raising and maintaining awareness. This year we saw around 500 people attend this very important event. The event started back in 2010 in Toowoomba with a couple of mates sharing, over a beer, an experience that no-one else was talking about—in their case, the experience of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully, they're both doing very well. Over the years since, that has grown into this major fundraising event.

It's awareness that we are focused on. One of the champions and advocates that I wanted to mention in particular has been, for many of us in Toowoomba, a very good friend and supporter over many years. I refer to Mrs Ruth Logan, the education program facilitator with the It's A Bloke Thing foundation. Ruth and her family have been affected by cancer. Ruth is passionate about taking the prostate health message, in particular, to the wider community. She has significant experience as an allied health practitioner, both in private practice and in managing corporate health programs. As the education program facilitator, she now works with rural communities, corporates and public groups throughout regional Queensland—in mining and construction industry operations, for example—from Charleville to Longreach, from Burdekin and back down to Toowoomba, for FarmFest and various other shows she attends to spread this very important message. I pay tribute to her and to other advocates around the country.

11:43 am

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men. Twenty thousand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day, and that means that today, while we're in this House, 54 men and their families will receive the news from their doctors and their specialists that they have prostate cancer. Approximately 3,000 Australian men die of prostate cancer every year. My father-in-law was one of those many, many men. They leave behind a space in their families, and it's something that we need to address. My husband and the rest of our family, having been through that journey with him, see the tremendous toll that prostate cancer has on its fighters and on the friends, the family and the healthcare workers.

For families who are fighting prostate cancer together, this time can be incredibly distressing and confusing. Addressing the unknown when lives are at stake can never be underestimated. For the children and grandchildren of men with prostate cancer, it is a time of uncertainty and confusion. But much is being done to support all people affected by prostate cancer. Liverpool Hospital's cancer therapy centre has long been a leading research and trial facility for Australians undergoing cancer treatment. In the last few years, Liverpool Hospital has led the trials into stereotactic radiation therapy, a technique that delivers targeted beams of radiation that attach to the cancer while keeping low the dose delivered to normal organs such as the bladder and the bowel.

The challenge of the need for new approaches to treatment is being met. These include the establishment last year of early-phase clinical trials at Liverpool Hospital, where new therapies can be offered to men when other treatments have failed. One such therapy, an oral medication called c2, was discovered in Sydney and developed at the Ingham Institute in Liverpool. It is being trialled in men with advanced prostate cancer, for the first time anywhere in the world, at the new Liverpool clinical trial centre in a trial sponsored by Western Sydney University. I'd like to pay special thanks to and acknowledge the work of Dr Kieran Scott, associate professor of oncology, and his team at the Western Sydney University and thank Mr Darryl Harkness, Chief Executive Officer of the Ingham Institute in Liverpool, for bringing this research to my attention. It is research and dedication like theirs, underpinned by institutions and with the support of the community, that is creating the advances that are necessary if we are to see the death rate from prostate cancer become a thing of the past.

While prostate cancer is a serious and potentially deadly health issue, early detection can mean a world of difference not only to surviving this terrible condition but to the treatment and options available to men with the condition. Technology has come so far these days that prostate cancer can be detected with a simple blood test, and, like all of the speakers today, I would encourage men over 50 to have that blood test.

Support for these fighters is vital, as it is with any life-threatening condition. Support groups, not just for the men who fight the disease but for their teams—the men, the women and the children—also need to be supported. They are often dealing with a current diagnosis of cancer or are survivors of cancer. These groups need to meet on a regular basis to be able to help each other, discuss their shared experience and learn more about their disease and how to manage it. Psychological support is crucial to their success in fighting and their ongoing wellbeing, as it is for all people suffering from cancer and for survivors of cancer. The current five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 95 per cent. Regardless of the survival rate, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85. Their battle is no easier and shorter than it is for any other cancer.

I thank the member for Perth for this motion and congratulate his constituent, Mr David Dyke, on his continued advocacy and insights into his battle with prostate cancer. Men need to take their health seriously. Early diagnosis is crucial in improving the survival rate and increasing treatment options available to them. I support the motion moved by the member for Perth.

11:48 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on this important motion against the backdrop of this month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I also would like to begin by thanking the member for Perth for the opportunity to speak on this motion and to speak about its importance. It is a motion that touches the hearts of many of the constituents in the Goldstein electorate and, of course, of people across Australia—men over the age of 50 who are mindful of their health, or who are not mindful and therefore get left undiagnosed—because the scourge of prostate cancer is real. In Australia, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men. Approximately 3,500 Australian men die of prostate cancer each year, and many of those cases are preventable simply through people getting checked early enough.

The member for Groom made the point earlier that more men die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer. That is not to take anything away from the risks of breast cancer in women—we know very well those risks and many of the people it affects. But it highlights the awareness and the publicity that breast cancer receives and how silent many people often are about prostate cancer and why we need to stand up and voice our concern today. Of course, for many men who go and seek assistance to check a diagnosis of prostate cancer, it can often be, like many medical checks, one based on fear. That is partly an overconfidence of men who don't feel they need to go and get health checks, because, as the member for Hasluck reminded us, we're all invincible, but the reality is human frailty and health frailty comes in. Many men who go off and seek a diagnosis to make sure that they are healthy and well come out with good news, and on that basis we should be happy and relieved for them. But, when it comes down to it, if your fear is the basis on which you're not seeking a diagnosis one way or the other, it is the worst approach to take, because we know that those people who seek a diagnosis early are in a situation where they're in the best position to be able to soften the impacts and to seek assistance.

While there are many challenges that men will face as they age, prostate cancer is a very real one. Of course, if people receive a diagnosis then very quickly they will face concerns of anguish, fear, fallen pride and the need for conversations with family, with their loved ones and with their friends. And we know that there are two major factors that ultimately inform people's risk profiles: their age and their relatives having had prostate cancer in the past. That's why having those conversations and raising awareness is so critical: it is so people will take action early and so they're in the best position to put themselves forward. And one of the things that we all have to be mindful of is that, when people go and get these diagnoses, they don't face them alone.

I was just looking up the various support groups for the Goldstein electorate and the community surrounding it so that, if you've recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you know you can seek assistance from your peers and from people going through similar challenges and, of course, to secure medical support. And there are a number of support groups within our area. There's the Bayside-Kingston support group, one based just to the north of the Goldstein electorate, in St Kilda; one to the east at Monash University; and the South Eastern Prostate Cancer Support Group. But, also critically, there are support groups for those people who come from CALD backgrounds or those where English is a second language. There are a number of support groups—for the Greek community in particular in Melbourne—to make sure that, if you come from a cultural background, you needn't be in a position of silence or a lack of support. Similarly, there are groups for the LGBTI community, particularly the Gay Men's Prostate Cancer Support Group, which, of course, are for seeking support and assistance around others of like mind or experience. And that's the basis on which we raise the profile of prostate cancer today.

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.