This is why you need to get your prostate checked

Six years ago, Dr Gary Morrison was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He wants to make sure other men don’t turn a blind eye to their health.

It’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and men over 50 – or 40 if they have a family history of prostate cancer – are being urged to talk to their GP about prostate health.

Dr Gary Morrison was diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago. He shares his story.

“I was in the supermarket, scanning my groceries, when my urologist rang and told me.

I left the store without paying, returned and paid for my groceries and went to ground for the next 48 hours.

I’ve always looked after my health and just after I turned 50 I began having regular PSA tests.

The Prostate Specific Antigen test is a simple blood test that checks for a protein in the blood.

High levels of that protein can indicate prostate problems, such as prostate cancer.

I began having the PSA test because I had an inkling that my father had prostate cancer – although he was of a generation that kept his health issues to himself.

He never spoke about it, but I remember he had trouble urinating and since I’ve had prostate cancer myself, I think he probably had it too.

My PSA tests had a relatively high reading, which my GP kept an eye on every six months.

But when that level continued to increase I had some biopsies of my prostate.

The first two biopsies found nothing, but then my urologist used MRI to check my prostate and that found what he called ‘an area of concern’.

A third biopsy confirmed I had cancer at the back of my prostate.

A cancer diagnosis is very confronting. It’s life-changing.

You’ve got to get over the hump of the diagnosis and realise you have to manage this.

I knew I wasn’t going to die tomorrow and I had options.

I chose to have robotic surgery to remove my prostate.

I was in hospital for 48 hours after surgery and I’ve had no problems with erectile function or incontinence, but I no longer have sperm.

I wore pads for three or four weeks until I was confident that I wouldn’t wet myself and it took a good six months for things to settle.

I encourage any man I meet not to turn a blind eye to their health.

You book your car in for a service and you need to service your health regularly too.”

What you need to know about prostate cancer

The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut, that sits below the bladder near the urethra and is part of the male reproductive system.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men – around 20,000 men are diagnosed each year and about 3500 men die of the disease.

Regular health checks and early detection are key to fighting it.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all, but common signs can be:

  • A frequent or sudden need to urinate
  • Finding it difficult to urinate, e.g. trouble starting to urinate, poor urine flow or not being able to urinate when feeling the urge
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips