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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15572

Ms GEORGE (1:32 PM) —I too have been contacted by the Secretary of the Illawarra Prostate Cancer Support Group, urging that I support the private member's motion that has been moved today by the member for Robertson and supported by the member for Lilley. I commend both members of parliament for the bipartisan support for this motion, which I believe is very timely. It is important that we bring greater public awareness to the issue of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is, as other speakers have pointed out, the second most lethal male cancer. I was surprised to read that its incidence is almost the same as that of breast cancer in women: almost one in 10 men over the age of 50 will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime; more than 10,000 new cases are diagnosed every year; and, regrettably, there is a very high incidence of death—around 2,600 men per year die from this form of cancer.

When you look at the incidence of breast and prostate cancer, there is a glaring difference, and that is that the community—and women, in particular—have responded over the past period of time to very successful public awareness campaigns and programs. Awareness is very central to the motion before us today. Women generally know of the risks to them of breast cancer and other gynaecological cancers affecting the female population. But it seems to me that the same priorities and effort have not gone into raising the awareness of the Australian community, and men in particular, to the risks of prostate cancer.

I am not sure whether this is a so-called male phenomenon, but I have been interested in reading about this issue, particularly the views of those who are not supportive of greater emphasis being given to prostate cancer and the constant references to potential side effects from treatment. There is a lot said about the possibilities of incontinence and impotence as a result of treatments. That is somehow being argued by some in the academic elite as a reason for not giving prostate cancer the kind of emphasis that we are urging in this motion. It would almost be like saying to women, `One of the side effects of treatment may be that you have to have your whole breast removed or even both breasts removed.' I am sure that most women, like men, would consider that option in discussions between them and their family if that option meant that their life would be saved and they would have a chance of living their life to the full. I think it is amazing that there is all this emphasis on incontinence and potential impotence rather than on the means of potentially saving lives.

I am only a lay person, but I would defy the academics and those who speak from an elitist point of view in this debate to tell me why it is that, in the case of prostate cancer, the earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis for the patient does not apply. It applies in every form of cancer that I am aware of—and I speak not totally dispassionately, because I lost a husband to cancer. His cancer developed into secondary cancer from, I believe, the lack of early diagnosis and, unfortunately, some misdiagnosis. Any lay person will tell the academics that the earlier you detect something the better the prognosis and the better the chance of living life to the full.

In the context of this debate I also want to raise the issue of Zometa, a new treatment that my support group is urging be on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It is a very costly treatment, but I understand it is very effective in treating the awful spread of prostate cancer into the bones, which sometimes happens with prostate cancer.

I commend both the mover and seconder of this very timely motion. If we can adopt the same sense of urgency, the same national importance and the same program of awareness raising and research which we have done in the field of breast cancer, we will have done something positive for our community. Many future lives may be saved if we adopt the proposals contained in this motion.