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Society Welcomes Prostate Cancer Screening Report

Media release
1 April 2004
Cancer Society Welcomes
Prostate Cancer Screening Report

The Cancer Society welcomes the National Health Committee’s clear and authoritative advice on prostate cancer screening released today by Health Minister Annette King.

Screening is the testing of people without symptoms to identify early signs of disease.

Cancer Society policy advisor on cancer screening and cancer control, Betsy Marshall says the conclusion of the National Health Committee (NHC) not to recommend screening for prostate cancer is consistent with the Society’s current position.

The Society also supports the NHC recommendation that greater emphasis be given to providing health care practitioners, men and the wider public with up-to-date information based on the best available evidence.

“In this way men considering screening can make a fully informed decision,” Ms Marshall says.

She says there is widespread community concern about prostate cancer - the most common cancer in men. About 90% of all new cases of prostate cancer are in men aged 60 or older.

“Over the past ten years there has been increasing interest in the potential for PSA (blood) tests to find prostate cancer at an earlier, potentially more curable stage.

“There has also been increasing debate about the possible benefits and harms of using PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer,” Ms Marshall says.

But the Cancer Society says while PSA testing may seem a simple way to ensure prostate cancer is found early in men, unfortunately it isn’t as straightforward as it may sound.

“PSA tests are not completely reliable. Although they do identify many prostate cancers, they can miss some cancers.

“Some types of prostate cancer grow slowly. Others can develop rapidly and spread to other parts of the body. At present there are no tests that can accurately predict which type a man has. As a result some men will receive treatment for cancer which may never have caused problems or threatened life,” Ms Marshall says.

Investigations and treatments for prostate cancer can have side effects which affect quality of life, including incontinence and impotence.

“As highlighted in the NHC report, many men will end up with a poorer quality of life than if they had not had any treatment at all.

“Currently there is no proof that finding prostate cancer early gives men a longer life or reduces their chances of dying from prostate cancer,” Ms Marshall says.

“As prostate screening is not recommended at this time, we need to find other ways to reduce deaths from prostate cancer. These include research into better ways to identify which prostate cancers are more likely to progress and the best ways of treating these.”


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