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GPS Refusing Prostate Tests, Committee Told

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Sept 23 NZPA - Hundreds of men are unnecessarily dying of prostate cancer every year because doctors refuse to test them, a parliamentary select committee has been told.

New Zealand Prostate Cancer Foundation president Barry Young told the Health Select Committee today that some doctors, unaware of the benefits, were turning away men who had requested prostate cancer tests.

"That's a death sentence, yet it's happening here in this country."

Prostate cancer testing guidelines were confusing and some doctors were unaware of the benefits of early testing as a result, Mr Young said.

About 600 men die of prostate cancer in New Zealand every year, he said.

"Of that, between two or three hundred could have been saved if only the doctors had got to them earlier," he said.

"The attitude of some members of the medical profession has indeed led to the deaths of men in this country."

Although public awareness of prostate cancer was an issue, doctors also needed to be better informed, Mr Young said.

"We need an education programme for the medical profession in this country."

Men over 40 needed to be tested regularly because prostate cancer did not present symptoms until it began to spread throughout the body, Mr Young said.

A national prostate cancer screening programme should be implemented, he said.

University of Otago pathologist Brett Delahunt told the select committee that official guidelines on the value of prostate cancer testing were outdated and confusing.

A 2004 New Zealand Guidelines Group (NZGG) review of the testing criteria had been "a fiasco", he said.

"The recommendations of that guidelines group were not a consensus -- they were in fact inflicted on the committee."

Professor Delahunt, who contributed to the review, said there had been sufficient evidence at the time to justify changing the guidelines.

All men aged 40 to 70 should be encouraged to undertake a test every four years, he said.

In its submission to the select committee, the NZGG said a prostate cancer screening programme should not be considered because it would not meet the National Health Committee's eligibility criteria.

Select committee chair Paul Hutchison asked the NZGG to respond to Prof Delahunt's criticisms of the 2004 review at a later date.

The committee's inquiry aims to find the best methods of promoting awareness of the early detection and treatment of prostate cancer.

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