Simple cancer blood test could save your life

More than 10 Australians are dying every day due to one type of cancer – and that number is growing. Advocates are now pleading for more community screening and say a simple blood test is all it takes to get a diagnosis.

Despite affecting only half the population, prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in Australia. In 2022, it’s estimated there were 24,217 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the nation’s husbands, fathers, brothers and sons.

This year, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) says we’re on track to hit 25,487 new cases, representing a five per cent increase in just 12 months.

The government’s own estimates say a typical Aussie male has a one in six (or approximately 17 per cent) chance of developing prostate cancer by the age of 85.

Grim numbers grow

The number of men who die as a result of the disease each year is growing. Last year, Australia recorded 3507 prostate cancer deaths, while this year that number is expected to grow to 3743 – an increase of five per cent in just a year.

Those numbers equate to about 70 new cases diagnosed each day and 10 deaths. 

Associate Professor Steve Callister, chair of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), says those numbers are far too high and that more needs to be done to encourage men to be tested sooner.

“Only around 36 per cent of prostate cancers in Australia are detected at stage 1, when the disease can be more effectively treated,” he says.

“Early detection is key to survival, but to achieve higher rates of earlier detection, we must have government and community support for awareness activity to improve understanding of the disease.”

The PSA test

Thinking about any kind of prostate-related diagnosis immediately conjures images of the dreaded digital rectal examination by the cold, gloved hand of a doctor.

And while that may indeed be required down the track, the first step in prostate cancer screening is a simple blood test, known as the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.

As the name suggests, the PSA tests for elevated levels of a specific hormone produced by the prostate. Elevated PSA levels are one indicator of prostate cancer, so their presence is a signal for further examination.

But prostate cancer isn’t the only reason for elevated PSA levels. In fact, around two-thirds of elevated levels are due to non-cancerous conditions such as prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Hope for the future

Anne Savage, CEO of PCFA, says there is also good news among the AIHW figures. They show more than 250,000 Australian men are still alive today after receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis at some point in the past 37 years.

“Our population is ageing and increasing, which means more and more men are being diagnosed with prostate cancer every year,” she says.

“Over 3700 Australian men will die of prostate cancer this year. With concerted action, many of these deaths can be avoided.

“We hope to bring together government, health services and patients to create a new way forward,”

Have you or a loved one been affected by prostate cancer? Did you know there was a blood test that highlights potential prostate cancer? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Breakthrough cancer blood test developed in Australia

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. My husband was diagnosed with Prostate cancer a few years back. Because we have a full physical every year and get our blood tests done every year the doctors caught the Prostate cancer when it was just starting. He had 3 options at that stage as it was very small. 1option was to leave it as it was still small, 2nd option was radiation to see if they could shrink it and the 3rd option was remove it. He took option number 3 and has had no trouble at all. He still gets checked every year and still does the blood tests twice a year. My cousin wasn’t so lucky he never got checked even though his father died of Prostate cancer and when he got diagnosed he was stage 4. He went through many years of chemotherapy and radiation and lived for 9 years before he passed. But he was sick for a lot of that time and couldn’t make plans. Such a simple test and if they get it early enough there’s no problem

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