Melbourne becomes the centre of prostate cancer expertise

Consultations in a time of Covid-19

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Melbourne becomes the centre of prostate cancer expertise for a week

The World Prostate Cancer Congress, just held in Melbourne, was a wonderful opportunity to catch up on the latest research, policy and practice relating to the treatment of prostate cancer.  The Congress attracted over 1,000 leaders in research and practice from over 30 countries.

I presented a case study to the Nursing & Allied Health stream of the Congress.  This was a forum for discussion about the psychosexual aspects of prostate cancer treatment.  It was great to catch up with researchers and practitioners in this field, and to see the ongoing work that is being done on understanding and helping men and their partners with the psychological and sexual repercussions of prostate cancer treatment.

Several things particularly interested me in this year’s presentations:

Penile rehabilitation:  The subject of keeping penile tissue functioning after treatment has been studied more closely and there is increasingly compelling evidence to support early intervention.  Although pre-treatment erectile functioning is an important part of the equation—a man is not going to have better erectile functioning after treatment than before—there is clinically-significant improvement if erections are induced as soon as comfortably possible after treatment.

Drug costs:  This is usually achieved through using Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.  However, the cost of medication is often prohibitive, and the emotional/erotic aspects of erections are often not addressed.

Not just solo mechanics:  The penis is attached to a man who has a history all sorts of feelings about erections.  The penis is often also an important part of the sexual life of a partner, and erections will have all sorts of meanings for a partner too.  Treating erections as a medical or mechanical event has not helped, and a number of experts from around the world shared the latest and best practices.  I had the honour of presenting a paper about the journey of one particular man with aggressive prostate cancer and his experiences before and after treatment.

New statement on PSA testing:  A global consensus statement on PSA testing was also released, which should help to dispel some of the confusing messages you will hear about how and when to use PSA testing.  Check out the definitive statement here: www.prostatecancercongress.org.au.  Click on “The Melbourne Statement on PSA Testing” link.

Overall, the Congress was an invaluable opportunity for specialists in the physical, emotional and social aspects of prostate cancer to collaborate on and improve outcomes for men and their partners.

Next time: Watch out for my next blog in which I will share the presentation I gave at the Congress; a narrative that describes one man’s physical and emotional journey through prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment and its aftermath.  This story is personal but universal, and describes how dealing with prostate cancer is not about “penile mechanics” (as important as these are), but about the whole person and his relationship with an intimate partner.