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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15573

Mrs HULL (1:37 PM) —I congratulate both the member for Robertson and the member for Lilley in bringing forth this motion to the House. We have certainly come a long way in bringing these issues to the forefront and for men to be comfortable in discussing their health, as we have witnessed here today.

Education is crucial for all men to gain a better understanding of the diseases that can affect them and impact on their lives. Men in rural and regional areas often find it difficult to discuss their health. Many hope that by ignoring the problem it will simply disappear. Moreover, investigation and diagnosis is not a simple matter of just attending a doctor, so mostly their health takes second place to everything else. In some cases in my electorate, it would mean days away from their farming properties or their small businesses in smaller regional communities whilst they travel to major centres, regional centres or city centres in order to have diagnosis and testing take place. Of course that all leads to them being away from their livelihood—their farms, properties, small businesses et cetera—with nobody else to pick up the reins. So instead they think to themselves, `Maybe this will go away if I don't confront it and if I don't actually allow it to enter my lifestyle.'

I believe it is important in that case that education campaigns should be appealing to all men, both in metropolitan and in rural areas. While it is imperative that any education program and campaign is focused on men, I think all sectors of the community need to be made aware of prostate cancer. Every one of us has a father, a brother, a partner, a friend or a colleague who may in his lifetime be diagnosed with prostate cancer. With an understanding of the disease, testing and treatment, individuals are far better informed and are able to support their loved ones and are particularly able to encourage them to have the necessary testing in order that they can start to address this issue before it is out of hand.

For many in the community prostate cancer is seen as a disease that affects just older men, yet statistics show that while it is rare for men under 40 years of age to be diagnosed it is possible. It is certainly not just older men who need to be aware of prostate cancer but men of all ages. The medical community is aware that many older men have small amounts of prostate cancer in their gland but lead normal lives without any problems. So in understanding the disease, the community should also understand living a normal life with prostate cancer is indeed possible.

Testing for prostate cancer is not as simple as it may seem. It is quite an invasive procedure. For many diseases or illnesses a number of relatively simple tests are required, whereas the side effects of tests to identify prostate cancer can be pretty serious. The Cancer Council of Australia still cannot confirm if early detection saves lives. It is a decision that needs to be made by each individual, taking into account his age, preferences and life situation with much education, knowledge and assistance thrown in. Men need to be given the options available to them in a simple and easy to comprehend manner. The current problem facing men suspected of having prostate cancer is that there is no test available that is good at differentiating between aggressive cancers and those that can be left without treatment. Prostate specific antigen detected in a blood test is the first indicator for men who are concerned that they may have prostate cancer. The existence of high levels of PSA indicates that cancer is present.

I support the Chief Government Whip's calls for funding options to be examined by the federal government to enable increased research into prostate cancer and to provide additional and more effective awareness programs to assist in the early detection of this cancer. The choice that men need to make in having a test for prostate cancer is balancing the risk of having a cancer which can be detected, cured or slowed down against the risk that detection and treatment of an early prostate cancer may not be necessary and could reduce quality of life. As a society we have come an enormous way in detecting, treating and saving lives from cancer as well as being able to openly discuss this disease. I encourage everyone to continue funding research into the main types of cancer that many ordinary Australians face daily on the basis of giving not just quality of life but indeed a choice—a choice as to whether you want to undertake it or you do not. (Time expired)