DON'T LEAVE IT LATE: Prostate checks the safer bet
SIXTY-four-year-old Athol Green had been feeling fine so he had no inclination about what was lurking in his body.
Thankfully though, his doctor was on the case. A random blood test showed a slightly elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, and while the level was mild, Mr Green's doctor wanted to know more.
"He said that it was a reasonably low reading, but would like it investigated because he believed something was going on," Mr Green said.
Mr Green went to Coffs Harbour to see a specialist and was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate.
The Grafton resident is not alone according to the Clarence Valley statistics released by the Cancer Institute of NSW. It shows that prostate cancer on average is the most diagnosed form of cancer in the Clarence Valley, ahead of others including skin and breast cancer.
Mr Green had his prostate removed, and has since had no side-effects from the operation a decade ago, although he gave his family a scare on the night of the operation.
"My family said goodbye for the night after the operation at 7pm, and at 3am that night they got a call to say I had a pulmonary edema, my lungs had filled with fluids and I was unconscious," Mr Green said.
"I woke up and there were a heap of doctors all around me. After a few more days in hospital I ended up alright though."
Now 10 years on, he and a group of other men maintain the Clarence Valley Prostate Support Group. Meeting on the first Wednesday each month at the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club, Mr Green said it was an important resource for those who had undergone, and were about to undergo treatment.
"There's a lot of real-world experience there," Mr Green said. "We talk about what each of us have had done, and there's many different treatments out there.
"I think people should come along to the group when they first get told they have it, rather than after they've had everything done."
And while Mr Green is clear of his battle with prostate cancer, he has no hesitation in recommending everyone check up on themselves.
"Have your GP check you, especially if someone in the family has had it before, no matter how little the reading is, a lot of people have no idea they've got it," he said.
"Even now I still keep having the check, and I'd like to see others do it."
AVERAGE CANCER DIAGNOSIS in Clarence Valley
Melanoma of skin: 69
Head and neck: 14
Cancer unknown primary: 13
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma: 12
Multiple myeloma: 5
Statistics courtesy of The Cancer Institute NSW