How watching an AFL match prompted one man to get the test that saved his life

Graeme Woolridge is alive today thanks to pathology. A routine blood test at his GP in 2009 triggered a cascade of investigations that identified an aggressive form of prostate cancer at age 47.

Graeme was fit and healthy when he watched the E.J. Whitten AFL match that raises funds for prostate cancer research.

The game inspired him to visit his GP for a health check. A blood test showed his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) was slightly raised so his GP decided to continue monitoring. Eighteen months later a sudden spike in Graeme’s PSA led to a biopsy and final diagnosis. Doctors told him that in another six months the cancer could have spread to other organs.

I didn’t think anything was wrong with me when I went for that first test, I was far too young! Fortunately, it identified the problem early and my doctors kept a close eye on me.”

Graeme is now well following surgery to remove his prostate gland. He has regular blood tests to monitor his health and provide him with peace of mind.

Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia (PCFA) provides support to thousands of Australian men with prostate cancer and their families. CEO A/Prof Anthony Lowe says,

Prostate cancer diagnosis and management is heavily reliant on pathology services including blood tests and biopsies. PCFA encourages men aged 50 to 69 to have regular, informed discussions with their GPs about their health risks including prostate cancer.”

In a strange twist to the story, Graeme’s partner Erika who is a medical typist at a pathology laboratory where his biopsy samples were examined arrived at work the morning after his biopsy was performed to find his biopsy slides waiting to be reported Erika says:

It was a confronting moment in my life, but it clarified for me how incredibly important pathology testing is. Without pathology, there is no cancer diagnosis. And at the end of every sample is a human being with family. Everyone is affected by pathology testing.”

Prostate cancer is responsible for around 25% of all cancer cases in Australian men1 and around 20,000 men are diagnosed with it every year.2 Many cases are slow growing and there is a 93% chance of surviving more than 5 years after diagnosis.3 Diagnosis can be challenging as men do not engage with GP services as regularly as women.4.

Australian doctors rely on pathology tests (blood, biopsy) to diagnose every case of cancer in Australia. Effective cancer therapies (radiation, chemotherapy, surgery) often have problematic side effects on the patient. Ongoing pathology tests are integral to select the best treatment, prepare for surgery, adjust dosing and monitor side effects during treatment.

REFERENCES

1. http://prostate-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics accessed 8th January 2016
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015 Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) Book for Prostate Cancer http://www.aihw.gov.au/acim-books/ accessed 12th January 2016
3. http://prostate-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics accessed 8th January 2016
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4CD5ABB5FABC202FCA25792E000D5A7E?opendocument accessed 8th January 2016