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How to get men talking about prostate cancer? Make them laugh and put them on the spot -

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KIM LANDERS: Now to a conversation that could save your life or that of someone you know.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. Nine men die from the disease every day.

But experts say many men don't want to talk about it and doctors too are loath to ask.

Erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer aren't exactly dinner party topics - so how on earth do you start the conversation?

Lucy Martin found out.

LUCY MARTIN: Dr Mick Adams has ways of making you talk.

MICK ADAMS: You know I ask men to fill in the questionnaire. Some of the men were big machos, said no, I don't need that; I'm a stud; I can do it all night. I said well, I'll go talk to your wife about it.

And they turned around and said yes give me that questionnaire, I'll fill it in for you, you know.

It's starting that conversation and putting blokes on the spot as well.

LUCY MARTIN: Putting blokes on the spot is what Dr Adams does best.

The Edith Cowan University health researcher has travelled around Australia asking why Indigenous men are so reluctant to talk about their health, especially when it comes to erectile dysfunction and prostate issues.

MICK ADAMS: A lot of men knew what was going on in their bodies, but a lot of them were suffering in silence.

Because I think the medical jargon puts them off because they don't really understand what's going on and what's happening medically.

LUCY MARTIN: He found just 30 per cent of men surveyed had spoken to their doctor about a prostate test.

Men might not want to talk about it, but Dr Adams, who is himself Indigenous, believes many doctors aren't asking either.

MICK ADAMS: Men have to ask doctors the questions as well as doctors asking the questions.

You know, throw in a phrase to say how you going, how's the old boy, is he getting up, is he doing the work?

A bit of tongue in cheek, but it eases the men into a comfortable position. And men, I find, are willing to talk, want to talk about it, but someone has to start the conversation with them.

LUCY MARTIN: Events like Movember, where men grow moustaches to raise money and awareness, have sparked a national conversation about prostate cancer.

But Anthony Lowe, from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, says many men are still reluctant to talk about it or get tested, and that's a huge concern.

ANTHONY LOWE: If it's diagnosed before it escapes from the prostate gland, then it can be treated. Whereas if it's already spread, there are treatments that can be done, but it can't be cured. So it's important to catch it at that stage when it can be cured.

LUCY MARTIN: Indigenous men are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and when they are diagnosed, mortality rates are significantly higher than non-Indigenous Australians.

The foundation is today releasing a series of flipcharts with information about prostate health, cancer treatment and advice for family.

ANTHONY LOWE: What we learned is that there is a low level of knowledge of prostate cancer in Indigenous communities, and there are certain stigmas associated with it as well, so we really wanted to counter that and get the correct health message out there in the community

LUCY MARTIN: The tool will be used by health groups and doctors to help start the discussion.

Doctor Mick Adams, who opened a national men's health conference in New South Wales this week, says it's long overdue.

MICK ADAMS: I did a public lecture series two nights ago, and there was over 140 people there - a good majority of men.

I asked a question about who had had a prostate check-up in the last three months. I had three men put up their hand. I asked the same question about who had talking to their partners about sexual health and prostate cancer. I think it's the same three that put up their hand.

What information are they getting? What encouragement are they getting? We really need to start looking at ways of getting men to start opening up about it.

KIM LANDERS: Dr Mick Adams ending that report from Lucy Martin.