Andrei Norris is a fighter. At 45, he was diagnosed with aggressive and locally advanced prostate cancer and spent three years fighting it hard.
The father of two underwent major surgery, was placed on hormone therapy and underwent radiation therapy. Things looked positive, but the cancer returned nine months later.
More radiation this year has not worked, he is currently undergoing chemotherapy and faces the prospect of further treatment.
His condition is not uncommon. Prostate cancer is most common in Australia among men and kills more than 3,000 each year.
There are 230,000 fathers, sons and husbands currently diagnosed with the disease, a number that is expected to increase by 60% in the coming years.
The key is to act before it’s too late.
“It is not a preventable disease, but it is a very detectable disease,” Mr. Norris said.
In his own case, he went to the extreme – taking his first PSA blood test at age 40 because his father had been diagnosed. It was clear, but in the five years before his next exam, the cancer set in.
True to his reputation as a “silent killer,” there were no symptoms other than unexplained weight loss, but Mr Norris attributed this to hard work, raising young children and coaching junior athletes.
“In Australia we have a culture where we see prostate cancer as a disease of older men and it is in many ways,” he said.
“It’s seen as something that we can approach by saying, ‘She’ll be right. We’re going to rip out your prostate and you’ll be fine. “
“But for 3,300 men every year, that is not the case. Too many people die and it is because they are detected too late.”
The latest data from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia shows those most at risk – men with a family history of positive diagnoses – are not coming forward.
Many of the people who come in contact with the foundation are other family members seeking advice on how best to support loved ones after a diagnosis, said CEO Jeff Dunn.
“Men whose father or brother has had prostate cancer are also at risk of developing it at a younger age, but calls to our tele-nursing service from people in their 40s are only 3%” , said Professor Dunn.
Having a direct family member diagnosed increases a man’s risk of developing the disease by 50 percent. Having two or more carries a five times greater risk of diagnosis.
“Know that just because your father or brother or whoever was diagnosed at an older age doesn’t mean you can’t be diagnosed at a much younger age,” Norris said.
“This is certainly what happened to me and I know of other stories that are very similar.”
Living beyond diagnosis can lead to debilitating side effects, including high rates of mental stress and an increased risk of suicide.
“A simple blood test can dramatically reduce the amount of treatment you need and provide up to a 95% chance of survival,” Norris said.
“That’s my message, I guess.”
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. The foundation’s awareness campaign, The Long Run, calls on Australians to run, walk or cycle 72 km throughout the month to raise awareness and raise funds.
Associated Australian Press