A Ballarat urologist has moved to reassure men after an online tool suggested the area has a lower prostate cancer survival rate than elsewhere.
The Stargate tool put together by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia compares survival rates across the country.
The figures for Ballarat indicate a survival rate of 75.65 per cent, behind other regions in the state - with metropolitan regions' rates all more than 80 per cent.
Ballarat-based Dr Lachlan Dodds sits on the committee of the Prostate Cancer Observational Registry. He said the figures could also reflect more men in metropolitan areas being diagnosed with irrelevant prostate cancers that do not need treatment.
He said the data he studies on the committee, which covers Australia and New Zealand, is heavily scrutinised. "I would reassure [men in Ballarat] there is no definite evidence that outcomes from prostate cancer treatment are worse here than anywhere else," he said. "The comment [that we have the worst survival rate in the country]... that it just not true."
However, he said it was a good reminder for men over 50 to ensure they have regular PSA (prostate specific antigen) checks. He also stressed the importance of regular general check-ups to catch other health problems that might be even more likely to be fatal than prostate cancer. Another key was ongoing education for GPs and patients about the role of PSA testing, he said.
The support network is there to help these blokes feel more comfortable about their treatmentTerry Grano
Terry Grano is one local resident who knows the power of PSA testing. He has been living with cancer for more than 20 years. Despite the cancer returning in recent years, he is still able to manage it, leading an active life including regular games of lawn bowls.
Now 73, he has been a core member and organiser of the Ballarat Prostate Cancer Support Group, which he says continues to provide "really important" backing to men with the disease.
Mr Grano said there were 45 members and their wives at the first meeting of the year for the group, which gathers on the first Tuesday evening of every month at the City Oval Bowling Club.
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"Some patients get very anxious after diagnosis, and the support network is there to help these blokes feel more comfortable about their treatment."
"I am such a good example of the cancer not killing you straight away. I am sure it will kill me but at the moment it is being controlled and managed. That's what having a PSA test can do."
He said the amount of people at the support group meant they were able to provide connections to people considering different treatment options.
The CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Professor Jeff Dunn, called for an urgent review of PSA test guidelines. "Ballarat men are dying avoidable deaths of prostate cancer, but the action we take today can save lives tomorrow," he said. "We must do everything in our power to support local men and families with beating this disease.
According to the foundation's statistics, there were an average of 132 men diagnosed with the cancer in the region each year from 2012 to 2016.
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