1 April, 2023
Cancer sufferer calls for Medicare to help
A 78-YEAR-old Topaz man who is suffering from prostate cancer has spoken out about how Medicare does not cover an optimal treatment for men with higher-risk prostate cancer.
BY NICK DALTON
A retired sales representative and grandfather, John, who asked for his surname to be withheld, initially dismissed his pros-tate cancer symptoms as just part of get-ting older, so being told he had five years to live after his diagnosis in 2005 came as a devastating shock.
After visiting his GP about trouble go-ing to the bathroom when he was 62, John was referred to a urology clinic. His pros-tate-specific antigen (PSA) test returned an elevated result, and he was referred to a urologist.
John was subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer and his urologist gave him an estimated five-year survival.
John originally managed his prostate cancer with hormone injections to bring his PSA levels down.
However, when his PSA readings start-ed rising in 2015, he was referred to an oncologist at Townville hospital.
“It was my oncologist who thought I would be a good candidate for brachytherapy in combination with radiation therapy. He suggested I opt for this treatment path, and I am very thankful he did,” John said.
LDR-brachytherapy for prostate cancer is a minimally invasive, high precision, targeted treatment option which helps to minimise risk of damage to surrounding healthy cells. It involves the insertion of permanent radioactive ‘seeds’ directly into the prostate, which give off localised radia-tion over a number of months to kill cancer cells.
In Australia, while both LDR-brachy-therapy and external beam radiation therapy are both approved for use in prostate cancer, the combination therapy is not available on Medicare for higher-risk prostate cancer.
“After I received LDR-brachytherapy, I had 39 rounds of radiation therapy. It was very quick - I was in and out of the hospital within an hour each day,” John said.
“I am one of the lucky ones. Not only had my cancer not spread outside of my prostate, but because it hadn’t, my treat-ment was covered by Medicare.
“I would not have been able to afford it if it was not covered.”
Throughout the rest of the world, LDR-brachytherapy is being used in combination with external beam radiation therapy to treat locally advanced (higher risk) cancer that has begun to spread outside the prostate.
“I was given five years to live with lower-risk prostate cancer,” John said.
“To think there are blokes out there liv-ing with higher-risk prostate cancer not able to access the same treatment I had covered by Medicare is mind-blowing.
“My advice is to listen to your body and your doctor. Since my treatment, my PSA readings are the lowest it has ever been, so I’m living proof it works.”.
To help back access to brachytherapy for Australian men with prostate cancer, visit backingbrachy.com.au