Government backs prostate cancer inquiry findings

  • Tony Ryall

The Government supports Health Select Committee recommendations around the early detection and treatment of prostate cancer which rule out a national screening programme at this stage.

It also backs HSC recommendations for the development of evidence based information and resources for men, so they can make informed decisions about prostate testing.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says, "I am aware that many men in New Zealand find the issue of prostate cancer management confusing and inconsistent."

The Committee has recommended that men be encouraged to talk to their GPs and seek out up to date information about the advantages and disadvantages of screening so they are aware of all possible outcomes, and can make active and informed decisions.

"I have asked the Ministry of Health to ensure all men with prostate cancer have fair access to good quality information and care," Mr Ryall says.

Local research is also underway into the care men receive following an abnormal PSA (prostate specific antigen) test for prostate cancer, including the range of complications arising from diagnosis and treatment, and the costs to individuals and the health service. Interim results are expected at the end of next year. Information from this joint Ministry and Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) study will be used to update information resources for men.

Mr Ryall says the Committee's final report represents a major contribution to the policy around management of prostate cancer for New Zealand men.

"This report provides a clear direction for further work. It notes that while PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing saves some lives, there is still inconclusive evidence around whether the benefits of prostate screening outweigh the harms caused by over diagnosis and treatment," he says.

Mr Ryall says the report also highlights the need for a better test for prostate cancer than the PSA test that's currently used.

"The Ministry will continue to monitor international developments and evidence around prostate screening and will update its policies if necessary," he says.

In New Zealand, prostate cancer is the most commonly registered cancer. There are almost 3000 new cases registered every year and in 2008, 670 men died from the disease. However prostate cancer is uncommon in men aged under 50. Studies show that 90 percent of men with prostate cancer will survive for at least 10 years without treatment, and many for 20 years.