A man has a blood test taken to screen for prostate cancer (file)
With prostate cancer, a simple blood test can save a life. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • health

Cancer check-ups urged despite cost of living pressure

John Kidman January 13, 2024

Imagination is required to come up with novel methods of encouraging better health care among men, with only so many ways experts can say the same thing.

But new research revealing that cost of living pressures have become a hurdle to Australians seeking regular medical check-ups is making that task a no-brainer.

Especially when it comes to a killer like prostate cancer that demands treatment based almost exclusively on early detection.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals patients are increasingly prepared only to see a doctor when something is wrong.

For some, namely men aged between 45 and 64, it means they last year neglected to visit a GP at all.

Fewer than 77 per cent did so across all age groups, while cost was cited as a factor by twice as many patients compared with the previous year.

A survey of more than 2000 members by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners also shows mental health issues (31 per cent), chronic illness (24 per cent), lifestyle advice (18 per cent) and COVID-19 (five per cent) are the main reasons patients book appointments.

Yet just one per cent present due to cancers.

For Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia chief executive Anne Savage, that’s a concern.

She’s urging all Australians, if they haven’t already, to go for a preventative check-up this month. 

“Australia has the highest rates of cancer in the world and yet there are preventative measures to limit that risk,” she said.

“Early detection is key to survival … with prostate cancer, a simple blood test could save your life”.

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is Australia’s most common, with an estimated one in six men likely to be diagnosed before turning 85.

Currently, 70 men are diagnosed and 10 die across the nation each day. 

Along with melanoma and breast, bowel and lung cancer, cancer of the prostate accounts for 60 per cent of all cancers but the good news is that when they’re diagnosed in the earliest stage, survival rates improve drastically.

Only about 36 per cent of prostate cancers in Australia are detected at stage one.

Men over 40 are encouraged to speak to their GP about a PSA blood test, which measures prostate-specific antigen.

ABS analysis of patient experiences reveals seven per cent of Australians who needed to see a GP in 2022-23 delayed it or didn’t.

One in 10 put off or declined to see a specialist and more than three per cent postponed or opted when the need arose not to attend a hospital.