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Doctors band together to prevent prostate deaths

Urologists across the country are calling on people to think twice about their family’s medical history – as it could save lives, with many unaware the role genetics play in prostate cancer. 

New research out of the UK shows that one in six prostate cancer deaths could be prevented if men simply knew their family medical history and got checked.

Dr Peter Swindle, a Brisbane-based urologist with 20 years’ experience, warns cancer is a disease that travels in families, including many of the 1.3 million men diagnosed with prostate cancer annually.

“Genetics and similar lifestyle habits are why entire family members have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer if a close blood relative has been – mother, father, sibling, aunt, uncle and cousins,” Dr Swindle said.

“Prostate cancer is one of the most heritable cancers as one direct family member with cancer doubles your risk from a one-in-six lifetime chance to a one-in-three chance, while two or more direct family members increases this again to five times the population average.

“A family history of breast cancer increases the risk of prostate cancer to approximately a one-in-four chance.

“Other important factors to consider include the age of diagnosis, whether the family member outlived the disease, or whether other second-degree family members have been diagnosed – generally, the younger the age of diagnosis and the more aggressive cancer, the higher the risk.”

Maxwell Plus, an AI platform aimed at catching prostate cancer early, is helping urologists give their patients the best chance of survival and has created a free three minute risk assessment.

The platform uses research from medical records of over 250,000 men worldwide to compare data allowing accurate detection.

Elliot Smith, founder of Maxwell Plus, is encouraging family to be open about their medical history when it comes to cancer to give others the best chance of survival and says the questions people should be asking are:

  • What cancers have they been diagnosed with?
  • At what age were they diagnosed?
  • At what stage were they diagnosed (Stage I, II, III, IV)?
  • What treatment did they have?

Retirees in particular should take the assessment if they haven’t already – in fact, Elliot Smith says men as young as 40 should consider the testing, particularly if they have a history of cancer in the family.

A 58-year-old Sunshine Coast police officer, Greg Smith, had a history of cancer in the family and so had been watching his PSA levels closely for the past 10 years.

Despite this, he was only diagnosed with prostate cancer after seeking further tests on the advice of the online assessment.

Greg has this advice for men who haven’t done anything despite having a family history of cancer:

"Have the chat about family history with family and find doctors that understand prostate cancer. Don't be complacent with an ‘it will be right’ attitude. And get tested.”