Improving the lives of Australian men living with prostate cancer

Associate Professor David Smith is leading one of the world’s longest studies into the experiences of men diagnosed with prostate cancer. His research aims to answer important questions around early detection, treatment and ongoing quality of life.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with around 17,000 Australian men diagnosed each year.

Whilst, thankfully, prostate cancer has a high rate of survivorship the very personal nature of the condition means men are often not comfortable talking about their treatment experiences. In the past, this has made it difficult for doctors and organisations like Cancer Council to provide the right information and support when and where it was most needed.

Twenty years ago, prostate cancer was something that men didn’t speak about and as a result, very little information was publicly available. Today, with thanks to programs like our own, the system is better set up for prostate cancer survivorship and maintaining a good quality of life following diagnosis.

In 1999, Cancer Council established the Prostate Cancer Care and Outcomes (PCCO) Study to address this important need. Led by Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow Associate Professor David Smith, researchers interviewed over 2000 men, asking them detailed questions about how their cancer treatment had impacted their health and quality of life.

The initial data collected was to primarily understand the long term impacts of different treatment strategies. As the study progressed, other questions sought to identify what support men received, what support they felt they needed and what influenced the decisions they made about their treatment options.

Today, the research findings from the PCOS Study have helped to shape a range of practical tools, information and support provided to men diagnosed with prostate cancer and their families. It has played a significant role in helping men become more comfortable in talking about their experiences, facilitating discussion and reducing some of the stigma that has previously been associated with this cancer type. Importantly, the outcomes of this research have been used to develop national guidelines to assist both doctors and men affected by prostate cancer when making important decisions about their treatment.

We need to remember that all people are vulnerable following a cancer diagnosis. In the case of prostate cancer, we need to provide men with the support and information they need to make the best treatment decisions for themselves and their families.

Data from the Cancer Council PCOS Study is still being collected and used, making it one of the largest and longest running studies of its kind in the world. It is thanks to research such as this, that men in Australia and around the world are now more able to make informed decisions and take an active role in their ongoing quality of life following a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Today, with thanks to programs like this Cancer Council funded program, the system is better set up for prostate cancer survivorship and maintaining a good quality of life following a prostate cancer diagnosis.

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