Funding boost for more specialist prostate cancer nurses

Specialist prostate cancer nurse Sonia Strachan who works in Shepparton in Victoria.

Thousands of Australian men living with prostate cancer and their families will have greater access to specialist prostate cancer nurses thanks to a $23 million funding boost from the federal government to expand the Prostate Cancer of Australia’s national Prostate Cancer Nurses Program.

Since 2013, the program has helped recruit, train and employ specialist prostate cancer nurses in 29 locations across the country.

The government’s 2020-2021 round of funding will support the employment of 24 new nurses at health services and cancer centres over the next 12 months, with an extra 15 nurses coming on board from June 2021.

Locations that new nurses will join in 2020-2021 include the Canberra Health Service, the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, the Redcliffe Hospital in Queensland, South Australia’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, St Vincent’s private and public in Victoria, and the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth.

One of Australia’s deadliest cancers, data shows more than 16,700 Australian men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, with an estimated 3,152 deaths.

Australia has one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world, with one in every six men likely to be diagnosed by age 85.

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) CEO Professor Jeff Dunn said the federal government funding would allow nurses to increase their vital support to men living with prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer leaves many men incontinent and suffering from erectile dysfunction and psychological distress.

“About one in five men with prostate cancer experience long-term anxiety and depression and some will have an increased risk of suicide, although few seek support for their mental health needs,” he said.

“These nurses play a critical role in providing guidance, care and support.”

Professor Dunn said men with a family history of prostate cancer have double the risk of being diagnosed, while men living in regional and rural areas of Australia face a 24% higher risk of death.

About 13,000 Australian men and their families currently lack access to specialist prostate cancer nursing support and the number would continue to grow unless action was taken, he argued.

“We simply don’t have enough nurses to meet demand,” he said.

“By 2040 we predict there will be 372,000 men living with or beyond prostate cancer in Australia, representing a 76% increase from 211,000 today and the greatest number of men or women diagnosed with any single cancer. Without investment in new nurses and telenursing services to reach those in need, many thousands of men will be denied access to specialist support.”

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