While many Australians are under strict lockdown, one of the reasonable (and incredibly important) excuses to leave home is for medical reasons. However, during the first COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020, Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests, which are used to detect and monitor prostate cancer, dropped by 60% compared to the same period a year prior1. There are concerns that even worse statistics could be seen with the current outbreak in New South Wales and Victoria.
“We’re very concerned about the impact of lockdown on prostate cancer services, which could be greater than the impact of the first wave if it continues for a longer period,” said Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia CEO Professor Jeff Dunn AO.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men and is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australian males after lung cancer. For men at risk of prostate cancer or those who are undergoing active surveillance, delaying tests can be fatal. Around 38% of men diagnosed with the disease are diagnosed with high or very high-risk prostate cancer or cancer that has already spread2.
For men with no family history of prostate cancer and no symptoms, the current guidelines recommend that men who decide to undergo regular testing should be offered PSA testing every two years from age 50 to 69. For men with a family history of prostate cancer who decide to undergo testing, the guidelines recommend men be offered PSA testing beginning earlier, at 40-45 years, with the starting age depending on the strength of their family history.
“We also want men to know not to delay their cancer check-ups and to continue consulting with their GPs when they have any health concerns,” Dunn says. “It’s vital that we do all we can to protect and promote community health, while following public health orders.”
In addition to the likely drop in potentially lifesaving screenings, changes to appointments and treatment as a result of lockdown restrictions can also affect patients’ wellbeing.
“The impacts are very real – we’ve seen a spike in calls to our Telenursing Service, and many callers are reporting higher levels of anxiety and distress,” Dunn says. “Our message to men is – don’t go through this time alone. If you’re having appointments cancelled or treatment dates changed, please reach out for support.”
If you’ve delayed, forgone or forgot to rebook an appointment with a GP or specialist due to COVID-19, take a minute now to make an appointment.
If you need information or support call the PCFA’s Telenursing Service on 1800 22 00 99 or head to their website.
 Papa N, O'Callaghan M, James E, Millar J. 2021. Prostate Cancer in Australian and New Zealand Men: Patterns of care within PCOR-ANZ 2015-2018. Melbourne, Vic: Monash University & Movember