Surge in prostate cancer diagnoses

The widening gap in healthcare testing, funding and treatment for men and women means the odds are increasingly stacked against Kiwi men, Prostate Cancer Foundation chief executive Graeme Woodside says.

The gap is causing widespread concern among prostate cancer experts.

Ministry of Health data has revealed a distressing 24 percent increase in prostate cancer diagnoses between 2015 and 2017, one of only two increases during that period across the top five cancers in New Zealand — breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and melanoma — and the only increase in double figures, Mr Woodside said.

One in eight Kiwi men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, with 10 men diagnosed every day and one or more dying every day.

Risk also increases up to 11 times if two or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) were diagnosed with prostate cancer under the age of 65.

Ministry of Health data also revealed the number of Maori men diagnosed with prostate cancer grew by 35 percent.

While diagnosis and death figures remained on par with breast cancer, Mr Woodside said the glaring inequality men were facing affected thousands of men, their families and communities.

Health boards had a long way to go to expedite treatment, with many men relocating or travelling for treatment, forced to wait months for surgery, or simply dying on the waiting list, he said.

“Certain testing and treatment options can be expensive or simply inaccessible for men yet free for women.

“Despite recent research showing that more than half of all Kiwi men over 50 are being PSA tested, many men continue to be turned down or turned away when they request a test from their GP.”

A survey among more than 500 New Zealand prostate cancer survivors uncovered insights that sadly reinforced the reality faced by the estimated 41,000 men in New Zealand living with a prostate cancer diagnosis, Mr Woodside said. Key findings included:

• Public v private: men in the public health system had to wait up to three times longer than those using private health services for their first specialist appointment, and up to twice as long for treatment.

• Confusion at diagnosis: 44 percent felt confused following diagnosis, faced with too many decisions, not enough information and resorting to the internet for guidance.

• Genetic link: more than a third (35 percent) had another man in their family who has, or had, prostate cancer.

• Support is essential: 90 percent feel it’s helpful to speak to other men who had treatment to make informed decisions.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation frequently linked up newly diagnosed men with survivors, Mr Woodside said.

The PSA blood test, while not fail-safe, was the best quick-and-easy test for prostate cancer, and there were clear guidelines for how it should be used.

In conjunction with a digital rectal examination, GPs were the first line of defence when it came to having a proactive approach to health.

The foundation recommended annual check-ups for all men aged between 50 and 70, and from the age of 40 if there was a family history of prostate cancer.

Increasingly men were becoming aware of the need to get health checks, including being tested for prostate cancer, Mr Woodside said.

GPs should take a more proactive approach to men’s health, including prostate checks, he said.

The widening gap in healthcare testing, funding and treatment for men and women means the odds are increasingly stacked against Kiwi men, Prostate Cancer Foundation chief executive Graeme Woodside says.

The gap is causing widespread concern among prostate cancer experts.

Ministry of Health data has revealed a distressing 24 percent increase in prostate cancer diagnoses between 2015 and 2017, one of only two increases during that period across the top five cancers in New Zealand — breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and melanoma — and the only increase in double figures, Mr Woodside said.

One in eight Kiwi men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime, with 10 men diagnosed every day and one or more dying every day.

Risk also increases up to 11 times if two or more first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) were diagnosed with prostate cancer under the age of 65.

Ministry of Health data also revealed the number of Maori men diagnosed with prostate cancer grew by 35 percent.

While diagnosis and death figures remained on par with breast cancer, Mr Woodside said the glaring inequality men were facing affected thousands of men, their families and communities.

Health boards had a long way to go to expedite treatment, with many men relocating or travelling for treatment, forced to wait months for surgery, or simply dying on the waiting list, he said.

“Certain testing and treatment options can be expensive or simply inaccessible for men yet free for women.

“Despite recent research showing that more than half of all Kiwi men over 50 are being PSA tested, many men continue to be turned down or turned away when they request a test from their GP.”

A survey among more than 500 New Zealand prostate cancer survivors uncovered insights that sadly reinforced the reality faced by the estimated 41,000 men in New Zealand living with a prostate cancer diagnosis, Mr Woodside said. Key findings included:

• Public v private: men in the public health system had to wait up to three times longer than those using private health services for their first specialist appointment, and up to twice as long for treatment.

• Confusion at diagnosis: 44 percent felt confused following diagnosis, faced with too many decisions, not enough information and resorting to the internet for guidance.

• Genetic link: more than a third (35 percent) had another man in their family who has, or had, prostate cancer.

• Support is essential: 90 percent feel it’s helpful to speak to other men who had treatment to make informed decisions.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation frequently linked up newly diagnosed men with survivors, Mr Woodside said.

The PSA blood test, while not fail-safe, was the best quick-and-easy test for prostate cancer, and there were clear guidelines for how it should be used.

In conjunction with a digital rectal examination, GPs were the first line of defence when it came to having a proactive approach to health.

The foundation recommended annual check-ups for all men aged between 50 and 70, and from the age of 40 if there was a family history of prostate cancer.

Increasingly men were becoming aware of the need to get health checks, including being tested for prostate cancer, Mr Woodside said.

GPs should take a more proactive approach to men’s health, including prostate checks, he said.

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