Take a proactive approach to prostate cancer

Kym Holbrook with prostate cancer nurse Christine Britton who supports 250 men across the Riverina. Picture: Les Smith.
Kym Holbrook with prostate cancer nurse Christine Britton who supports 250 men across the Riverina. Picture: Les Smith.

Cancer.

Just the word has the power to evoke a range of emotions.

Generally speaking, it’s almost impossible to fi nd someone who hasn’t been impacted by the disease in one way or another, especially when it comes to prostate cancer in this region.

According to statistics, more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the Murrumbidgee area than anywhere else in NSW.

A diagnosis usually comes as a shock but for a large percentage of men it can treated quickly and effectively.

Typically speaking, if prostate cancer is detected early it can be cured and it rarely returns.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case for Kym Holbrook.

The Wagga man was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer in 2009 after a routine doctor’s appointment.

He was just 49 at the time.

The average age for diagnosis is 65 with a very small percentage diagnosed under 40.

Kym had surgery fi ve weeks after being told he had cancer.

Despite being a stressful time he stayed positive and was determined to treat it as if it were the common cold.

“I’d have surgery, recover and move on with life,” he said.

After surgery and his recovery Kym underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment, during which he worked full time, but his path back to health wasn’t smooth sailing.

Kym ended up in the “unlucky one per cent” that have ongoing issues with his cancer returning a few years later.

Despite his own battles, Kym is determined to help others.

The Wagga Prostate Cancer Support Group has been a great support for him and other members.

Kym also had tremendous support from his family and wants to strengthen the group for men who are diagnosed who may not have a strong support network at home.

“My partner and my kids give me a huge amount of support,” Kym said.

“They keep me going.”

Along with his family and the group, Kym is just as grateful to have the support of Wagga’s prostate cancer support nurse, Christine Britton.

Christine has only been in the role for the past 18 months and before her there was no support nurse.

Wagga residents lobbied to have her appointed and the effort has been worth it.

She has seen more than 250 men with prostate cancer and that’s “only the tip of the iceberg.”

The Murrumbidgee has the highest rate of prostate cancer in the state according to a study completed in 2012.

Christine hopes the new data coming out later this year will show a greatly reduced number of instances.

Christine is the link between the patients and any extra care or resources they might need.

“Every problem has a solution,” she said.

From all the patients she looks after, Christine said the main thing she noticed was survivors wanting to help others.

“Most have a positive attitude and they want to help other men and raise awareness of prostate cancer,” she said.

Early treatment and detection is the best way to fi ght the disease.

“They don’t have to have the dreaded finger test unless there are symptoms,” Christine said.

“It’s just a free PSA blood test, it’s a tick of the box when you get a blood test done, annually from 50 years or 40 years if they have a family history.

“There are no symptoms or early warning signs so get the blood test done.”

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