Secret men's business
WHEN Ivan Eichorn was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer his life stopped.
"I gave away my work, I had no income, no status, no hope, just like that overnight," the 74-year-old Alstonville man said.
"It's a big blow for a man and most say they'd rather not know about it, but if it's caught early you can save yourself and your family years of trauma."
Mr Eichorn's plea for men to be tested for prostate cancer comes after the launch of a national campaign 'Be a Man' by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, which encourages men over 50 to be tested.
The foundation said about 2600 Australian men die from prostate cancer each year, the same as the number of women who die from breast cancer.
On the Northern Rivers and Mid-North Coast 400 men are diagnosed with this cancer each year.
Mr Eichorn discovered he had prostate cancer 14 years ago soon after moving to Alstonville to semi-retire with his wife Dossie.
He was working at Lismore TAFE teaching literacy when he first noticed problems 'downstairs'.
"I thought it was to do with my bladder," he said.
"I was a bit concerned so I went through my daughter's nursing books and realised it was more than that.
"I was told by my doctor I had a tumour about the same size as my bladder.
"The cancer had been growing for some time and had spread beyond the prostate.
"Early detection is so im- portant and men should be getting checked for their families' sake if anything.
"By the time I was tested the cancer had already spread."
Mr Eichorn's father also had problems with his prostate, but it was never discussed.
"We were just told he had problems 'down there' but no one ever knew it was cancer," he said.
"If I'd been told 20 years ago my father died of prostate cancer I would have gone straight to the doctors and saved myself and family the pain of all this."
Over the years Mr Eichorn has undergone three serious operations, radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
"I'm constantly in and out of hospital, and my three brothers all have prostate cancer as well."
In 2001 Mr Eichorn, with the help of the Alstonville Rotary Club, formed a Prostate Cancer Support Group which meets monthly at the Alstonville Bowling Club.
"I wanted to give men somewhere to go. When I was diagnosed I didn't have that support," he said.
North Coast Area Health Service director of Area Cancer Services, Associate Professor Tom Shakespeare, said he believed the evidence suggested the need for a screening program in the near future.