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Prostate cancer: Jennifer Burton calls for earlier screening in men after watching husband Michael die from the disease

A mother of two is calling for prostate screenings to be performed in younger men after watching the love of her life rapidly deteriorate from the disease.

A mother of two has pleaded for Australian men to seek earlier prostate screenings after watching her husband die from the cancer.

Jennifer Berton, 46, lost her husband Michael in November 2020 as the disease took hold of his life in under two years.

The Kanwal resident from the Central Coast said her husband, 53, was told after his diagnosis that he had cancer at least four years prior.

He had no symptoms until just before his diagnosis and underwent a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test after noticing he needed to urinate more frequently than normal.

It was soon found the cancer had already metastasised.

Ms Berton described her husband as strong, funny, stubborn and a born leader who adored their children.

“We were like opposites that fit. We were very yin and yang,” she told NCA NewsWire.

“We were very lucky. We had a good marriage, we had a nice house, two kids, dogs and a happy life.

“We wanted to grow old together … You just don’t expect it (getting cancer) that close to home.”

After watching her husband deteriorate, Ms Berton believes men should begin prostate cancer screenings at the age of 40 instead of 50.

She said more awareness and breaking the stigma around examinations and it being “an old man’s disease” was needed to help prevent other families from suffering the same fate.

“If it’s picked up early enough, it’s treatable,” Ms Berton said

“I know what’s happened to us is left of field, but if it can happen to an ordinary family like us, it can happen to anybody.”

The Bertons are not the only family impacted by the disease, with one Australian man being diagnosed every 30 minutes, making it the most common cancer in males. About nine people die from it each day.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of men dying from prostate cancer between 2016 and 2019.

Leading urologists around the country fear outdated screening guidelines are putting more men’s lives at risk.

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia chief Jeff Dunn AO said the guidelines – launched in 2016 – needed to be scrapped as too many men were given incorrect advice about their cancer risks and screening options.

He said a review into screening recommendations was vital to reduce “avoidable” deaths.

“Of particular concern, some GPs refuse to offer PSA testing to their patients, and as a result some men are being diagnosed when the cancer has already spread. When that happens, it’s harder to save their lives,” Professor Dunn said.

“We need to provide clearer guidance for men and GPs, supported by a public awareness campaign.

“This is particularly important given that prostate cancer often has no symptoms, and increasing numbers of men go untested, only to be diagnosed with late-stage and incurable disease.”

His calls were supported by leading urologists Mark Frydenberg and Peter Heathcote who said patients and GPs needed to be aware that screening and diagnosis techniques had evolved over time and the guidelines should reflect that.


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