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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1428

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (10:40): I rise to speak on a matter which is of particular importance to many residents in my electorate of Ryan, and that is prostate cancer preventative screening and treatment. Many individuals in the Ryan community have contacted me with their concerns about the lack of government subsidies for reliable preventative screening of prostate cancer and modern treatments available for victims of prostate cancer. Each year in Australia, close to 3,300 men die of prostate cancer. This number is equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually. Around 20,000 new prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in Australia each year. While prostate cancer is most common in men over the age of 50, younger men with a history of prostate cancer in their family are at greater risk. Understandably, the majority of those who have contacted me are men. However, everyone is affected when a loved one falls victim to prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be cured if detected early and treated while still confined to the prostate gland. The tests for prostate cancer are the prostate-specific antigen blood test and the DRE. However, these tests do not give a conclusive diagnosis of cancer. Other more reliable methods, such as an MRI or a biopsy, are not subsidised by the government.

In terms of treatment, the difference between the old-style open surgery and robotic or laparoscopic surgery is about two weeks in hospital as opposed to two days, and a much greater chance of a satisfactory outcome. One of the biggest problems with prostate surgery is the chance of damaging the nerves surrounding the prostate. This damage is significantly reduced using less invasive keyhole or robotic surgery, therefore ensuring a better outcome for the patient. Old-fashioned open surgeries run the risks of impotence and incontinence as well as a higher risk of infection. These newer keyhole and robot-assisted surgeries are considered nerve-sparing surgeries, which aim to protect specific nerves, minimising the side effects of surgery. The techniques of nerve-sparing surgery are becoming more common and the potency rates are now as high as 90 per cent with early-stage cancer. These keyhole surgeries involve the insertion of telescopes through small incisions in the body and can also include robotic assistance in conducting the actual surgery. Yet laparoscopic and radical prostatectomy and robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy are not subsidised by the government.

Some of the gentlemen who have contacted me after undergoing surgery and are now survivors of prostate cancer ask me why there is so little support for victims of prostate cancer, as opposed to women with breast cancer, especially when just as many men die from prostate cancer in Australia each year. They expressed particular concern about the high impotency rates that go with the older surgery methods and the high out-of-pocket expenses that they are faced with when dealing with procedures for the removal or change of a catheter after the initial surgery.

On behalf of the many constituents who have contacted me on this issue, women as well as men, I commend the actions of individuals lobbying the government for better financial assistance in the screening and treatment of prostate cancer with modern, faster and safer medical techniques.