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Prostate cancer's terrifying toll on Kiwi men revealed

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Prostate cancer is having an alarming impact on the male population as figures released today by the Prostate Cancer Foundation reveal the extent, stealth and genetic link behind the nation’s most commonly diagnosed cancer amongst men.

One in eight Kiwi men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, with one man diagnosed every three hours and one or more dying every day. Risk also increases up to 11 times if two or more first-degree relatives were diagnosed with prostate cancer under the age of 65 years.

The scale of the figures is reinforced by the comparison to diagnosis of breast cancer in women, with prostate cancer diagnoses over the past decade greater than breast cancer diagnosis levels.

Prostate Cancer Foundation CEO Graeme Woodside said the extent of the issue brings prostate cancer close to home for Kiwis.

"It’s an awful reality check to discover just how many men are affected in New Zealand and for most people there will be at least one man in their circle who will develop prostate cancer at some point."

"This year we’ve harnessed the insights from independent nationwide research of Kiwi men, coupled with asking prostate cancer survivors about their experiences, to really help us understand what needs to be done to get more men tested earlier."

Independent research of 1,000 men- and 100 prostate cancer survivors has lifted the lid on awareness, attitudes to testing and the impact on the lives of men and their families.

What do our blokes know about prostate cancer?

Moderate awareness at best: 1 in 3 know something about prostate cancer and awareness increases as men age with 57% of those aged 65+ say they know a moderate amount or a lot

Symptoms identified easily: problems urinating, being aged over 50 and blood in urine are the most commonly known symptoms amongst the general male population

Absence of symptoms is cause for concern: only 16% of Kiwi men were aware that often there are no symptoms and alarmingly nearly half of all survivors said they were presenting no symptoms when they were first diagnosed with prostate cancer. 69% of men were shocked, surprised and sad to learn this insight

Getting ‘the finger’ not an issue: almost 60% of Kiwi men were not put off by any tests, including blood test and DRE.

GP visits - are our guys going?

Room for improvement: well over half of all respondents had been to their GP for a general check up in the last 12 months, but there still 7% of Kiwi guys haven’t been for a check up in more than 5 years

GP’s role in testing: while a slight majority (58%) take responsibility for their testing, GPs are still singled out as being held responsible by many men - take control of your health checks guys!

Speak up and get checked: only 2 in 5 Kiwi men are proactively asking their GP for a prostate check - all men 40+ need to take responsibility for requesting this critical test.

Think you’re not at risk? Think again.

A stealthy disease - beware! nearly half (46%) of survivors said they had no symptoms when they were first diagnosed, reinforcing how critical it is to get tested regularly. Most Kiwi guys felt pretty scared and surprised by this insight.

Prostate cancer - a family concern tragically, well over a third of survivors (40%) had men in their close family who had also had prostate cancer, once again backing up the evidential insight that this particular cancer carries a genetic link

The most at risk? Men aged 45-54 years old - many are not seeing the doctor (only 35% had a GP visit in the last 12 months) and responsibility for their personal health is low. As instances of prostate cancer in younger men increase, coupled with genetic links, these guys need to take notice now!

Early detection saves lives: prostate cancer can be treated effectively when it is caught early and before it spreads outside the prostate gland.

Survivors share their journey.

Emotions running high: when diagnosed with prostate cancer the overwhelming emotion was worry (52%), felt even more than surprise (41%), sadness (10%) and anger (9%). Many men commented that concern for their family welfare and supporting themselves as well as those around them caused them to worry

A new lease on life: following their diagnosis, the majority of men (46%) felt it was a trigger to live their life to the fullest or gave them a new perspective

Support is vital for recovery as a family: funds raised from this year’s Blue Do campaign will be making a big difference according to the 80% of men who agreed that prostate cancer sufferers, survivors and families in New Zealand would benefit from more resources, research and support to cope with their situation

Plea from survivors - don’t wait When asked what their message is to men putting off a prostate cancer check, the unanimous response from survivors was not to put off the trip to the GP. Many of them are living with the consequences of delaying a simple test

Getting guys talking! word of mouth may be the key to raising awareness around prostate cancer as a whopping 93% of men said that it is important for men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, or who are living with prostate cancer, to share their experiences with other men in order to raise awareness and support others.

Mr Woodside commented that the solution to turning the tide of unnecessary deaths lies in a quick trip to the doctor each year.

"Our research was enlightening on many levels. Here’s what we discovered - our men are familiar with symptoms, tests and aren’t put off by what needs to happen when they get a check up by their GP. They’re also passionate about living their life to the fullest. So why are so many men dying needlessly when a quick trip to the doctor each year can intercept and treat this dreadful type of cancer in its early stages?"

Future focused efforts underway

Kiwi excellence in science, research and development are pioneering world-class innovations in diagnosis and treatment, creating ground-breaking techniques that will change the course of prostate cancer amongst men around the world.

Caldera Health CEO Rob Mitchell says the opportunity to save lives through earlier, more accurate diagnosis is becoming a reality thanks to the efforts of New Zealand’s best scientific minds.

"We’re working on a urine sample test with unparalleled accuracy and zero invasiveness. This kind of ingenuity, especially because it’s ‘homegrown’ right here in New Zealand, makes our work exciting and inspiring and we know it has the potential to make a huge impact once it becomes available."

PSMA scanning research at Mercy Radiology, immunotherapy vaccine development at the University of Otago and the prostate cancer registry are also making headway in wrangling the treatment of prostate cancer.

Blue September - have a ‘Blue Do’!

From funding groundbreaking research to hosting support groups nationwide, every dollar counts this Blue September.

Create your own social fundraising event - a golf day, blokes BBQ, girls’ night out, dress up day at the office or anything you like that brings people together.

Go to to find out how to put on your own ‘Blue Do’ and donate to join the fight against prostate cancer.

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