Eleven grams of trouble

26 Mar 2014

Screening for cervical cancer saves lives every day, so surely men should be screened for prostate cancer? Unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than that.

IN 2010 the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia produced a television advertisement called “It Could Happen to You,” a masterly example of beautifully lit, tightly focused, talking-head communication. Fifteen famous Australian actors, celebrities, sportsmen and musicians construct a thirty-second narrative about the threat that prostate cancer poses to Australian men and what they can do about it. In grabs of a few seconds each, the facts of prostate cancer are established in turn: “It kills more Australians every year than breast cancer. Or skin cancer. Or car accidents. Over 3000 men. One every three hours.” (It must be an important topic – one of the speakers is a Wiggle.) Then three young heads: “Just like me.” (That guy from Underbelly.) “Just like me.” (Nathan Bracken) “Just like you.” (Craig Bolton)

If you thought prostate cancer was an old man’s disease, then the appearance of these three thirty-somethings strongly suggests otherwise. Following the rules of good health promotion, the next step is reassurance and a plan of action: “Prostate cancer is treatable. And early detection is the key. So if you’re over fifty. Or over forty with a family history. Talk to your GP.” And what will my GP say? “It could be as easy as a blood test.” And then, to reiterate the central message, “Because if you get to it early… surviving prostate cancer could happen to you.” The closing words are spoken by Bert Newton.

It’s all very simple, and persuasively done. So why, if prostate cancer is common and treatable, and if early detection will save my life, did I want to throw my mouse through the computer screen when I saw this advertisement recently on YouTube?

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