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Todd Talks

Todd Talks

Thoughts from Cancer Council CEO Todd Harper

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Welcome to the fifth edition of Todd Talks.

A focus on men’s health

We often hear the stories about men not wanting to go to the Doctor, to ‘toughen up’ or to put off their health check-ups.

Men’s Health Week, held during June honours the importance of the health and wellness of boys and men.

However, it doesn’t have to be Men’s Health Week for men to start thinking about their health.

Two in three missed cancer diagnoses in Victoria are men

Cancer Council Victoria’s Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) recently released some concerning findings. They found that two in three missed cancer diagnoses in Victoria are men.

Professor Sue Evans, Director of the VCR, said that the missed diagnoses are likely due to men not going to their GP for a general health check or for a screening appointment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our modelling data shows that the decline in cancer incidence reported in 2020 has continued into 2021 and 2022, and that two out of the three cancer cases we are missing belong to men,” said Sue.

The VCR also found that in 2020 more men are diagnosed with cancer than women with men diagnosed at a rate of 123 males for every 100 females.

This is largely due to the high rates of prostate cancer in men and the higher rates of lung cancer in men than women.

Listen to your body

For 52-year-old Geoff, a visit to his local GP helped save his life after he was struggling to swallow.

“I had trouble swallowing food. Within a week, it hadn’t improved so I went to the GP, and they decided to send me for a gastroscopy, and they found a tumour in my oesophagus that had almost closed my throat over,” said Geoff.

Geoff was diagnosed with stage three oesophageal cancer and underwent weeks of radiation and chemotherapy treatment in 2019.

He also underwent an Ivor Lewis esophagectomy, an extremely high-risk procedure which involved a partial removal of his oesophagus and stomach, in which they gave him a 30 per cent chance of survival.

Geoff is now in remission and feeling really good.

“They doctors said to me had I not taken notice of what my body was telling me, and if I didn’t go to the doctor as early as I did, I may not be alive today.”

Geoff also encouraged men to listen to their bodies: “Your body will tell you if there’s something not right. Listen to it.”

Take on these 8 easy and practical tips to help reduce the risk of cancer...

  1. Get to know your own body and get checked and if you notice something out of the ordinary book in to see your GP – not next year – in a week or so.

  2. Do the bowel screening test when you’re eligible – it’s one of the best investments of time you can make in your own health.

  3. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol is directly implicated as a cause of at least 7 different types of cancer. The more you drink, the higher the risk – the current recommendations are for not more than 10 standard drinks per week.

  4. Lost weight. If you’re overweight, losing weight can help reduce your risk of cancer – and you don’t need to be a perfect – if you can lose even about 5% of your body weight you could have a measurable effect on your cancer risk.

  5. Eat a healthy diet. Eat a varied and mostly plant-based diet – but for many of us it is about taking better options a bit more often.

  6. Be physically active – recommendations are around 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days – brisk walking – enough to make you puff a bit or sweat after doing it for ten minutes.

  7. Be sunsmart. Most skin cancer can be successfully treated if it is found early. But without treatment, skin cancer can be deadly. Get to know your skin and what looks normal for you to help you find changes earlier. 

    Slip on  sun-protective clothing.

    Slop on  SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and re-apply every two hours. 

    Slap on a  broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck       and ears.

    Seek  shade.

    Slide on  sunglasses.

  8. And of course, quit smoking. Remember, expert assistance to quit smoking is available through our Quitline on 13 7848.

If there’s one thing you can do today, it’s to take 5 minutes to start a conversation with the men in your life and get them to prioritise these 8 tips. If starting a conversation is difficult or awkward, why not copy and paste the above in an email or text message and send to the men in your life to action.

And remember, our experienced cancer nurses are here to help answer any cancer questions you might have, including any symptoms you may be concerned about, and can help you find a local GP if you don’t have one.

A visit to your GP – or a call to 13 11 20 – could be lifesaving.

Just remember, it doesn’t have to be Men’s Health Week for men to start thinking about their health.

Until next time

Thank you for your support. Stay safe and I look forward to providing more updates next month in the next edition of Todd Talks. Have a question for me? Ask away!

quoteIt doesn’t have to be Men’s Health Week for men to start thinking about their health.

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