Every year, one in seven Vancouver Island men are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The Island Prostate Centre is working to beat those odds, and one way is through Men’s Health Day.

Leanne Kopp is the executive director of the Island Prostate Centre.

“Men’s Health Day started 18 years ago here in Victoria,” Kopp explains. “The number of men being diagnosed with prostate cancer was on the rise, yet access for men to get a PSA screening test was on the decline.

“We needed to find a place where men could come and get this test done free of charge. We decided to provide a Men’s Health Day, which was one day where men could come and get all of these health examinations done.”

Along with a PSA screening test, men can also have their blood pressure, hearing, cholesterol, sugar levels and other tests done, all free of charge.

“It’s as simple as going to any lab and getting a blood test,” says Swein Heugen. A friend encouraged Heugen to pop into Tillicum Centre for Men’s Health Day in 2016.

“I ended up going. I jumped on my bike, went out, and got tested, and the PSA came back a little elevated and so I was referred to my doctor.  He called me back, and that’s where it all started…”

Swain learned that he had prostate cancer.

“I had surgery. We got it early, and it’s really thanks to the Island Prostate Centre, and a few people that really pushed me to go to Men’s Health Day and get tested.

“Once you get diagnosed,” says Heugen, “it’s a bit overwhelming.”  But the Island Prostate Centre supports men, and their families, through every step of their cancer journey.  “There’s material, there’s a nurse that you can talk to and get help, there’s counselling, there’s a support group that meets monthly, and there’s the exercise program that they run monthly.”

As Executive Director of the Centre, Kopp knows the difference that kind of support can make.

“Men, a lot of times, don’t like to talk about this disease,” says Kopp. “But once they’re been through this journey, these guys become our greatest advocates, and they are here to support other men. It’s amazing. It’s a really safe place for men to come and feel like they have others that they can connect with, and really understand their situation.”

Men’s Health Day 2019 is Saturday, October 5, at Tillicum Centre.

Veronica Cooper