A support program for gay and bisexual men affected by prostate cancer will head to Melbourne after a successful pilot in Sydney.

The Shine a Light program is funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) and is supported by organisations such as ACON, the Cancer Council in NSW and Victoria, the Victorian AIDS Council, La Trobe University, Monash University and the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Shine a Light’s facilitator Greg Millan is aiming to recruit gay and bisexual men diagnosed with prostate cancer, those having treatment for prostate cancer and those men who are survivors of prostate cancer — along with their partners — to the program.

“This is a group that has never been targeted before,” Millan said.

“I was getting phone calls from gay men with prostate cancer asking if there was such a support group, and with the Sydney program, the 17 men who took part said how amazing it was to have something like this, and how much they needed it years ago.”

Millan said gay men with the cancer had unique needs regarding information and support, and could often feel uncomfortable in other broad support groups where men would be accompanied by their wives.

“For us, it’s the on button and it often means more to gay men. It affects sexual function. For those who have anal sex, it will change and affect sex if you’re a receptive partner, and partners need to know how to give support and how they can adjust to the changes,” he said.

A cancer survivor himself, Millan said gay men and men in general don’t know a lot about prostate cancer, mostly due to fear.

He hopes the Melbourne program will have positive outcomes for attendees similar to those in the Sydney pilot.

“They learn so much talking to other men with it. There are lots of treatments and often it can be anxiety-provoking because doctors will want to wait for years to see what happens with the cancer in order to recommend one of those treatments.

“One in two men will have contact with cancer and more people are living because of the success of modern treatments. It’s important to look at some of the problems this can present to gay men in everyday life.”

The men involved in the program will decide the future of the support group, choosing how often and where they meet after the initial meetings.

“The added attraction of taking part in this initial workshop is that the people who come first will guide the future of the program,” Millan said.

The Melbourne workshops will take place on October 6, 13 and 20 at the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre. Registration is essential and attendees must attend all three initial workshops.

INFO: To register for the program, contact Greg Millan from Men’s Health Services at greg@menshealthservices.com.au or on 0417 772 390

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