GPs champion prostate testing
Medical opinion is swinging towards prostate cancer screening for men, a leading Christchurch urologist says.
The debate was reignited at the national GPs conference in Christchurch yesterday, despite current Ministry of Health advice against a national screening programme.
In a show of hands, most GPs at the conference debate indicated they would offer prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood-testing to men over 50 during a general health check-up.
Urologist Peter Davidson said prostate cancer was the third-biggest cancer killer in men after lung and colon cancer. About 550 men a year die of it, more than the 450 killed on the roads.
Clinicians were persuaded by recent research that showed screening improved the length of time sufferers lived after diagnosis.
However, epidemiologist Dr Ann Richardson said there was no strong evidence that screening made any difference to how long a man would live.
She said doctors should wait for the results of major studies under way in Europe and the United States. Those studies were randomised controlled trials, considered the gold standard in medical research.
One of the main dangers of screening was over-treatment, Richardson said.
Prostate Cancer Foundation president Barry Young said that although PSA testing was not diagnostic, it was no less accurate than mammography and there was not a better screening option.
“The Ministry of Health says men without symptoms should not ask to be tested,” he said.
“But the horrible thing is if you go along with symptoms and find it’s caused by prostate cancer, it’s generally too late. Once it’s out of the prostate, it’s incurable.”
Christchurch Men and Fathers Network co-chairman Don Rowlands said prostate cancer was a huge issue, but men’s health was not prioritised.
“Health is a competition for funds,” he said.