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  • Treatment options wider if prostate cancer found early

    Author: AAP

Frank Dann was a few days out from celebrating his 65th birthday when he was hit with a huge health shock.

The Melbourne resident was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a series of medical tests prompted by his GP, but the news still came as a surprise given he had no symptoms.

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Luckily it was caught early so he had several treatment options.

"They were fairly confident that it could be treated, it was never a case of anything that might not turn out well," Mr Dann told AAP.

The now 66-year-old is among an estimated one in six Australian men diagnosed with the disease before turning 85, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Prostate health is still a bit of a "taboo subject", he said, while conversations with friends and colleagues after his diagnosis made him concerned some men delay tests or don't follow up worrying results.

"As a lot of males do, we tend to put that aside and think I'll actually do that another day," he said.

As the cancer had not spread, Mr Dann was able to undergo a less invasive form of treatment he'd never heard of before, called brachytherapy, involving radioactive 'seeds' being placed directly into his prostate.

While it may sound painful, the self-described "sook" said it was not as bad as he'd been warned.

"I'd probably rather be sitting on a beach in Queensland than lying on a hospital bed but it's not that bad," he said.

"You'll be told maybe you'll experience a burning sensation for some time but it's like wearing a watch or something, for the first few times its a bit strange but you get used to it."

Brachytherapy is not known as well as other treatments but is the most accurate way of delivering radiation directly to the prostate and patients can go back to work the next day, according to Icon Cancer Centre radiation oncologist Paul Conway.

"By placing radioactive material directly into the prostate we can deliver radiation from the inside out," he said.

"There is no other radiation delivery technique that compares."

Dr Conway said there was "backlash" against screening about 15 years ago, but he wants to reassure men monitoring is now more targeted, treatment can be delayed or sometimes put off all together.

He said surgery, external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy have comparable rates of cancer control but the 'seed' procedure can only be done before cancer spreads.

"The toxicity rates for brachytherapy with modern day techniques ... are exceptionally low," he said.

"Sexual dysfunction is probably the half of what it is for the other treatment options, there's no such thing as incontinence with brachytherapy."

Some 160 Victorian men had the procedure in 2023, a 38 per cent increase on the previous year, according to BXTA which is a major provider of the seeds.

Monash University professor Gail Risbridger said there are many types of prostate cancer, with different stages and multiple options for patients.

"It's all about awareness and men generally being aware of their own prostate health, regularly getting it checked and then considering if they do have it what their options might be depending on how far advanced it is," Professor Risbridger said.

She said there is always a "balance" of treating the disease and managing side effects.

"The main goal of treatment is to manage the disease, brachytherapy has to be the right treatment for the right time for the right type of prostate cancer," she said.

King Charles recently had treatment for an enlarged prostate and Buckingham Palace has since revealed he has been diagnosed with cancer, without revealing its type.

Professor Risbridger expects that news to have an impact.

"Usually when high-profile individuals have prostate cancer, if they are public about it then it usually might prompt some men to go and think well I need to have my prostate checked," Prof Risbridger said.

Mr Dann certainly hopes more men take action early, with his prostate-specific antigen levels dropping.

"I see (an oncologist) again in March so I'm fairly confident the reading should be reduced," he said.

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