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Qualified Political Support For Early Detection Pilot Of Prostate Cancer

“Going into next month’s election, New Zealand First, Tepati Maori and the Green party all support the early detection pilot and other measures proposed by the Prostate Cancer Foundation. ACT and Labour give qualified support. National has committed to a rapid review of radiology eg MRI and workforce components in the survey to improve prostate cancer diagnosis and management and qualified support in other areas. This is good progress for mens health” Prostate Cancer Foundation President Danny Bedingfield said today.

This follows the presentation to Parliament of the 30,000 plus signature petition of Kristine Hayward in June, and various engagements with political parties, seeking the implementation of an early detection program for prostate cancer in New Zealand, as happens for other cancers such as breast, colorectal and cervical cancers.

“Men’s health matters. Whatever cancer you die from, your still dead. Everyone agrees that early detection of any cancer leads to better clinical outcomes and saves lives. 

The Prostate Cancer Foundation sent a questionnaire to the parties asking them if they supported (see answers in below table)

  1. Initial pilot in at least 2 areas for all men over 50, or those men over 45 with a family history of prostate cancer, and those men over 40 who have the gene variant BRCA2.
  2. Funded availability to MRI for all men in the public sector as part of the diagnostic pathway.
  3. Funded access to trans-perineal targeted biopsy for all men in the public sector.
  4. Funded access to PSMA-PET scans to all men in the public sector so men with advanced disease do not go through unnecessary radical treatment.
  5. Leverage existing programmes ( technology and other infrastructure for Bowel, breast and cervical cancers.
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“We are proposing the first phase would be an early detection pilot in Waitematā and Tairāwhiti. The implementation of a pilot scheme would be a low risk, sensible way to learn, and then scale-up from there. And our indicative numbers suggest this is also a low-cost option with significant upside.

Work by NZIER indicates this pilot would require an investment of around $1.6 million a year ($6.4 million over four years). The NZIER report also indicates the pilot could potentially be expected to return over $100 million to the health system in cost savings and generate over half a billion in health gains for Waitematā and Tairāwhiti men over their lifetimes. Nearly $1 million in personal income loss to working age men could also potentially be expected to be avoided

“More than

4000 men are diagnosed and over 700 die from prostate cancer every year. That’s more than twice the road toll.

Current opportunistic PSA testing results in inefficient resource use and inequitable outcomes. Overseas work suggest that an early detection program could half the number of deaths. That’s around 350 lives.

“We think that’s a worthwhile policy for our politicians to support. Voters need to know which parties support men’s health in this way.

Winston Peters, NZ First Leader says that “

Prostate cancer early detection is just plain common sense

” and his party supports all the initiatives if they are in the post-election government

“John Tamihere, President of Te Pati Maori, said their party

“supports all the recommendations made on the part of the Prostate Cancer Society in regard to lifting Prostate Cancer matters into a Population Screening methodology akin to Cervical Screening Programs .

“Green Party Health spokesperson Ricardo March said “

We are happy in principle with the policies outlined being publicly funded health services”

‘In answer to most of the questions the Labour Party stated “

Yes in principle as funding and workforce allows

‘Act has also given qualified support stating,

Unfortunately, ACT has not included costing for this trial in its alternative budget re-released earlier on the 21st of September 2023. Nonetheless, this does not rule out the possibility of this initiative being included in future ACT budgets.

“And Nationals very recent announcement states they, “

will conduct a rapid review of the public health system to determine investment options for the delivery of modern prostate cancer management in New Zealand, including better access to ultrasound and MRI, information technology needs, and workforce shortages

“If we can get full political support and get early detection implemented, it simply means better clinical outcomes and less dead men,”

“There has not been much discussion on men’s health in this campaign. But now is the time for political parties to commit to some firm action if we are serious about making a difference. An initial investment of $1.6 million a year for a focussed pilot is not a lot to ask for to save men’s lives and improve their clinical outcomes. Men’s lives matter too,” Mr Bedingfield concluded.

Some background on early detection programmes in New Zealand:

Cancer kills. Early detection of cancer reduces the number of people who die from it. Whatever the circumstance, there are always better clinical outcomes if the existence of cancer is known earlier. New Zealand agrees with this and currently takes action on some cancers. For example, every year:

  1. Breast cancer: 3400 women are diagnosed, with 600 deaths. A comprehensive early detection programme was started in 2017.
  2. Colorectal cancer: 1500 women and 1700 men are diagnosed, with 1200 deaths. A comprehensive early detection programme was started in 2017.
  3. Cervical cancer: 160 women are diagnosed, with about 50 deaths. A comprehensive early detection programme was started in 1991.

And because New Zealand values lives so much, we also have a significant

$61 million

“Road to Zero” campaign underway seeking to reduce the number of deaths on the road to zero. In 2022,

380 people died on New Zealand roads.

And of course, the Government took significant measures to prevent deaths from Covid-19 from January 2020 till now, which has seen

2716 covid 19 deaths

, and has a budget of circa

$61 billion

to prevent deaths and support the community.

Over the same time period, around 2100 men died of prostate cancer.

Many of these deaths will have been premature.

So the Government accepts it is worthwhile to invest early to save New Zealanders’ lives.


, when it comes to

prostate cancer this appears to be ignored.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (apart from skin cancers) in Kiwi men – more than

4000 men are diagnosed and over 700 die from prostate cancer every year.

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