I had a lucky escape during the last few months. I went into hospital for a routine procedure and came out feeling remarkably well. I’d had a raft of tests in the lead up to the operation and, apart from a humongously large fibroid, everything seemed to be as it should be.
A few days after the operation a resident from the hospital called. In a stammering voice he said, “Ummm, I’ve just been going through your pathology report and, ummm, errrr, well … it’s Friday and I thought you should know that …. ummm, the pathology found a malignant tumour. We’re all pretty shocked here. There were no indications prior to your surgery and we’re pretty sure we took it all out but … ummm, we’re going to have to get you back to check because … errr, we didn’t know it was there.”
Long story short, I went in for another surgery to have more bits removed and I’ve now been pretty much cleared. I’m incredibly lucky. There was no indication that I had cancer, i had no symptoms, and if I hadn’t, coincidentally, had to have an operation for something different (but in the same location) I may not have known until it was too late.
Now, tests missed my cancer but, generally, they’re pretty good at picking them up. I make sure to have regular mammograms, pap smears and colonoscopies. The former two are made easier because they are covered by Medicare. The colonoscopy costs a bloody fortune but then, I weigh up, “A couple of hundred bucks versus bowel cancer” and somehow the “couple of hundred bucks” seems rather less important. I’m lucky I have the money. I’m sure there are many who don’t have vital tests because they simply can’t afford them.
Which brings me to the subject of this post – bums – anuses to be precise. Icky for some, lovely for others but, we’ve all got one and like all of our other ‘bits’ they’re prone to cancer too.
My friend, Rod Swift of Melbourne’s gay and lesbian radio station, Joy 94.9 FM, tells me that while the Australian government provides Medicare funding for women to have pap smears to guard against cervical cancer (caused by the human papillomavirus – HPV) they don’t fund anal smears for men or women who have anal sex to protect against anal cancer (caused by the same virus).
This makes no sense. As Rod says, “Alarmingly, the rate of cancer among gay men is even higher than the rates of cervical cancer among women.”
I find this shocking – particularly as my own, very recent, personal experience shows, early detection of cancer is critical.
Rod has started a petition asking Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek to add anal pap smears for HPV to the Medicare Benefits Schedule and to promote their availablilty and necessity to men who have sex with men – the highest risk group.
At a time when we are so actively fighting for marriage equality, surely it’s only fair that the government provide health equality as well.
You can help by signing Rod’s petition. I have.