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Remembering Late Husband, Nurse Implores MPs To Fund Early Detection Of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer widow Kristine Hayward has pleaded with MPs to fund a better approach to detecting prostate cancer and save hundreds of men’s lives each year.

Hayward called for a PSA-based screening pilot during her appearance before the Petitions Committee, which is considering her 30,000-signature petition presented to Parliament last July.

“My husband of 50 years was a victim of prostate cancer. We have a broken system, and this petition is about promoting screening and early detection because there are many, many cases of men like my husband who find too late they have cancer,” Hayward told MPs.

Hayward said the current testing is unfunded, disorganised and inequitable, and government funding of a targeted pilot would start the process toward a national screening programme.Also speaking to the committee, Prostate Cancer Foundation President Danny Bedingfield said 16,000 men have died from prostate cancer over the past 25 years, and there was an accelerating trend.

“Alarmingly, 762 died of prostate cancer in 2021, the most recent data available, and the death rate is going up quickly.”

Haywards’ petition calls for a national screening programme, and while the Foundation says that is the end goal, it should be preceded by a focused and relatively inexpensive screening pilot in two locations.

Foundation Chief Executive Peter Dickens said views expressed by health agencies during the petition hearing “didn’t address the proposal at hand, were out of date, over-stated or misleading”. The Foundation had written to the committee and the Minister of Health to express concerns at the quality of advice.

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Unlike, breast, bowel and cervical cancer, there’s no population-based programme for contacting, assessing and diagnosing New Zealand men whose risk can first be measured through a simple PSA blood test, which gives a vital warning of prostate problems including cancer.

More than 4000 men a year are diagnosed but clinicians believe there are many more that are not diagnosed in time because prostate cancer is a symptomless disease in the early stage, when curative treatment can be administered.

When there are symptoms present, most often the cancer has already progressed to the point that a cure is no longer possible. Hayward said the challenge to government was to make a public commitment that it will implement an early detection programme starting with a pilot in two regions estimated to cost only $6.4 million over four years. NZIER research found that for every quality-adjusted health year gained through prostate cancer screening, health system savings of over $8,000 are expected.

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