Conference tackles a big issue

A COFFS Harbour cancer support group has helped set the national agenda, after members participated in a conference to identify priorities in the fight against prostate cancer.

Two members of the Coffs Harbour Prostate Cancer Support Group attended the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia's national conference on the Gold Coast recently, in which delegates discussed the need for increased resources for dealing with the disease across Australia.

Group convenor Bruce Robertson said people felt empowered to have been a part of the conference and its outcomes.

“By reinforcing the links and relationships with other support groups, we will be able to do an even better job of encouraging early intervention for the disease and improving the support given to survivors and their families,” Mr Robertson said.

Attending the conference was Virgil Simons from the USA, the founder and president of The Prostate Net, a non-profit patient education and advocacy organisation.

Using experience gained as a 13-year survivor of prostate cancer and as a patient advocate, Mr Simons has built an international organisation to address disease risk awareness and early disease interdiction.

The Prostate Net has received several awards, most recently the 2007 Cancer Leadership Award from the American Association of Cancer Research.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, and it is estimated that 18,700 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2006, with almost 3000 men dying from the disease every year.

The average Australian male has a one-in-five chance of developing prostate cancer by the age of 85 and men in rural and regional Australia have a 21 per cent higher prostate cancer mortality rate than men in capital cities.

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