Lismore councillor Neil Marks faces prostate cancer battle
LISMORE councillor and 2LM local radio presenter Neil Marks has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The 54-year-old was diagnosed last week after a routine blood test in December led to a meeting with a specialist, MRI scans and eventually a biopsy.
The diagnosis confirmed a non-aggressive, 1cm tumour on his prostate.
Cr Marks was aware he was a potential prostate cancer candidate after his father died from it, and had been tested for the last 14 years.
But that didn't prevent the shock of being diagnosed at a relatively young age.
"At 54, you're kind of thinking you've still got a few good years," he said.
"It's the mental side of it; the feeling you're losing your manhood as a bloke."
He has elected to undergo surgery to remove his prostate, describing the choice as an "informed decision" between "sitting there and worrying constantly or doing something about it".
The side effects of prostate removal can include incontinence and impotence, the severity of which depends on the impact of the surgery on the nerves around the prostate.
Both side effects are a confronting reality check for those diagnosed with the disease, especially when they are still in their prime.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia and yet awareness about the disease still lags behind breast cancer and melanoma skin cancer.
In Australia, 17,250 males expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the end of 2015 - a quarter of all cancer diagnoses.
By the age of 85, one in seven men will have been diagnosed with the disease.
Cr Marks encouraged men to get regular prostate cancer checks, which contrary to popular belief only require an annual blood test.
"It doesn't have to be awkward or invasive, and doctors will tell you if you need anything else," he said.
"If you get tested regularly which is every 12 months, you will find out very quickly."
But he said men still didn't appear to care about their health as much as they should.
"Most men service their cars more regularly than they see a doctor," he said.
"How many stories do you hear about men who didn't know they were sick, they just battled on.
"There's no point putting your head in the sand."
"I've been tested for 13 or 14 years and they noticed a small change and then another small change, and from that we found it."
UNDERSTANDING PROSTATE CANCER
See your GP about annual blood tests for elevated levels of the prostate specific antigen, which in one in three cases indicates cancer.
If further examinations are recommended your GP will inform you.
The chance of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older - it mainly affects men over 65.
One in seven men in Australia are at risk of developing prostate cancer before 75. It is less common in men under 50 but tests should commence post-40.
For more information call Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20 and ask for the Understanding Prostate Cancer booklet.