Moving the mountain to the man

For Yinnar’s Allan Wyhoon the difference between his experience with prostate cancer compared to his father’s is like day and night.

Both diagnosed with the common cancer, Allan is feeling “as good as ever” while his father is terminal.

It’s a bittersweet story, but one Allan has shared in the hope of inspiring others to seek treatment.

Speaking to The Express, Allan said he owed his new lease on life to a treatment soon to be available at Latrobe Regional Hospital – brachytherapy.

An alternative to surgery, brachytherapy is a localised prostate cancer treatment that involves the implantation of radioactive ‘seeds’ in the prostate.

A day procedure operation, the seeds remain in place and continue to kill cancer cells over time.

The treatment is said to reduce the affects of radiation on other parts of the body and has minimal side effects.

For Allan, the decision to choose brachytherapy was an easy one.

It was the travel to Melbourne’s Alfred Health that proved difficult, placing added stress on the 60 year-old and his family during an already difficult time.

“It was pretty stressful, but there was no option here (in the Latrobe Valley) to get the treatment,” he said.

But Allan does not for a minute regret the extra effort required to receive brachytherapy.

He said he experienced minimal discomfort from the procedure, and was off on a European holiday just eight weeks after treatment.

“I feel so good, I’m just happy to be here and able to offer support for the treatment,” Allan said.

He counts himself as one of the lucky ones after seeking treatment early, and is painfully aware of what could have been.

“My alertness was heightened due to my father’s situation,” Allan said.

“My dad’s gone blind in the last two years. Looking at him is like looking in a mirror of where it (prostate cancer) can go.”

Alfred Health’s director of radiology oncology, Jeremy Millar, said 250 men in Gippsland were diagnosed with prostate cancer each year – the highest in the state.

The region’s survival rate was also the lowest, Associate Professor Millar said.

It is hoped the introduction of brachytherapy in Gippsland, beginning at LRH by Christmas, will increase treatment and survival numbers.

Allan said having such treatment available “just 20 minutes from home” will make a world of difference.

“It will be fantastic, I’m sure it will encourage a lot of men in the area to seek treatment,” Allan said.

“It would take a lot of the pressure off if we can have the equipment here and utilise it at LRH.”

He urged men with prostate issues to “get checked out as soon as possible” as it was an accumulative cancer.

“We’re stubborn, us men, we have a tendency to look after everyone else,” Allan said.

“But we need to take care of ourselves.”

THE fourth annual Latrobe’s Biggest Ever Blokes BBQ contributed $65,000 to Latrobe Regional Hospital, assisting in bringing an alternative prostate cancer treatment to the region.

Brachytherapy, a less invasive treatment than surgery, will soon be available at LRH.

The $300,000 capital equipment required for the therapy was funded through the annual prostate cancer fundraiser and the LRH Board.

Latrobe’s Biggest Ever Blokes BBQ committee chair Ian Nethercote said the fundraiser has “been able to contribute to bringing a new procedure and level of service to regional Gippsland and LRH not previously available”.

He said the introduction of such treatment would not have been possible without the “support and generous contributions” from the local community, businesses and sponsors.

Alfred Health’s director of radiology oncology, Jeremy Millar, said the treatment was just as effective as surgery, but with less side effects.

“We’ve been doing it in Melbourne since 1998 and have treated a lot of guys with prostate cancer from down here,” Associate Professor Millar said.

“But we thought rather than move the men to the mountain, let’s move the mountain to the men.”

Brachytherapy is also expected to be available in Bairnsdale and Wonthaggi in the near future.