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Hidden killer of men 'low on health agenda'

By Steve Deane

Paul Holmes. Photo / NZPA
Paul Holmes. Photo / NZPA

Prostate cancer is out of sight, out of mind and too far down the health agenda, says veteran broadcaster Paul Holmes.

Speaking after a news conference for tonight's prostate cancer boxing fundraiser Fight For Life, Holmes, himself a survivor, said promoting awareness of the killer disease could take a back seat to other causes.

"There is so much bloody-minded obstructionism in gender health," he said.

"Some people say you shouldn't get your PSA [specific antigen] tested every six months and why in God's name they say that I have no idea. It's a very simple little blood test.

"Men push their health under the carpet a bit. We don't go to the doctor I think as readily as women..."

A vocal lobby group of women had successfully pushed breast cancer awareness up the health agenda in recent years, yet prostate cancer was more deadly than breast cancer, Mr Holmes said.

"They persuaded the Sky Tower to turn itself pink. They had that kind of influence, and I congratulate them for it. I've never spoken ill of that at all, but prostate cancer kills more men than breast cancer kills women.

"There's a tendency amongst some women's groups to slightly dismiss prostate cancer. The mastectomy is a very obvious and apparent change to a woman but with prostate cancer, you don't see it."

Diagnosed with the disease at 50, Mr Holmes had hormonal treatment and radio therapy. He was cured, but the treatment is invasive with possible side effects such as impaired urinary function and impotence.

"No one gets away completely scot-free from prostate cancer. You'll be affected down there in some way and you have to live with it. Hopefully you have a loving partner who understands, and I was lucky to have that."

Better known as a crusader against the drug P, Mr Holmes said he had no hesitation throwing his support behind Fight For Life.

"I think it's fantastic this group of fit, beautifully built young men are happy to work for a big event that supports the prostate cancer foundation," he said.

"When I was diagnosed I remember being asked by [the Herald] what kind of cancer was it, and I felt sort of funny saying it was prostate cancer. It was men's parts and stuff like that. But then I quickly found out about the extent of [it] in New Zealand.

"When I got it no one spoke openly about prostate cancer. I knew nothing about [it] or the epidemic proportions it had reached - 550 New Zealand men die a year of it."

Now 61, Mr Holmes described his quality of life as wonderful.

"I've just written a book and I'm doing as much work as I ever did. Life is great. It's different but, as I say to people, it's better being on this side of the grass than the other side."

The key to beating the disease was early detection and treatment before the disease spread. "Once it's in the bones and lymph nodes, [doctors] are just making you comfortable."

Fight for Life is on tonight at Trusts Stadium, West Auckland. The event is available on pay per view television.

Fight for Life
* 6pm tonight at Trusts Stadium, Waitakere
* TV: Sky Arena (Pay per view)
* Web: fightforlife.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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