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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Hutchison’

PROSTABLOG NZ: Exact meaning of the word “encourage” will be pivotal  in the continuing New Zealand saga on how best to prevent prostate cancer.

“We will be encouraging men to go to their GPs to discuss optionsincluding whether or not they should have a PSA test,” says the chairman of Parliament’s inquiry into prostate cancer, Paul Hutchison, in today’s Dominion Post newspaper (see below).

In the same story, his statement is welcomed by Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ president Mark von Dadelszen: “…we would certainly applaud that move.”

What they both mean by the term “encourage” is about to become the focus of a debate that has churned around in global prostate cancer politics since PSA testing became commonly available in the early 1990s.

First question: how does “encouraging” men to be tested differ from a national screening programme (which Hutchison signals will be rejected in the inquiry report due in a matter of weeks)?

A national screening programme presumably involves the Ministry of Health spending millions promoting tests to the general populace, as it does with breast and cervical cancers.

Such programmes “encourage” people to get along to their doctor and have the tests.

How will men be encouraged? Not with a lot of advertising, it seems.

So how, exactly?

By training barbers to spread the word to their clients, as has been tried in the US?

By sending doctors into communities to talk about risks and options, as the Foundation did last year when it flew a team to the Chathams?

By leaving it to the Foundation to publicise the disease and urge men to act, as happens now?

Whatever approach the Health Select Committee is about to recommend, it needs to deal with a mammoth in the waiting rooms – the Ministry of Health instruction to GPs that they must not raise the topic of PSA and rectal examination until the patient does or unless they spot symptoms obviously related to what is often a symptomless disease.

This is the real crux of the dilemma the Select Committee has presumably been wrangling with since its first public hearings in September, 2009.

What instruction will it recommend the Government give to the Ministry, whose staff and advisers  adamantly oppose any widening of the availability of PSA testing?

Up to now, men have been the subject of a mild but just as deadly form of Russian roulette when it comes to being diagnosed.

Take my own case.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been under the care of four GPs. The first never mentioned prostate cancer (to be fair, I was under 50); the second (mid 1990s) refused to consider PSA tests because to him they were unproven; the third insisted on it without my bidding; and my current one responded readily to my request for tests (saying Ministry instructions forbade him raising the matter unless I spoke up first!).

Anecdotal evidence suggests the Ministry’s obfuscation is becoming increasingly irrelevant – for some people, anyway.

The Foundation’s awareness campaigns have been effective, if I judge by the number of male acquaintances now being diagnosed early and successfully treated.

However, I suspect there are dangerous class factors at play here.

Me and my mates are okay because we have been blessed by education, higher socio-economic status, media awareness and access to health provision.

I fear for those who don’t. The Ministry’s stubbornness condemns them to an uncertain fate.

National prostate screening rejected

Dominion Post April 2, 2011

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into prostate cancer screening will not be recommending a national screening programme despite pressure from cancer survivors to do so.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has backed the committee’s approach, but a former patient says the decision is disappointing.

Health select committee chairman Paul Hutchison said the inquiry, which has been running since May 2009, was not due to report back for another few weeks, but when it did, it would not advocate screening.

There was still controversy over whether blood tests for prostate-specific antigens led to fewer prostate cancer deaths, he said.

Heightened levels of prostate specific antigen – PSA – can indicate the presence of prostate cancer. However, early detection can result in aggressive and unpleasant treatment of tumours that would never have grown or created ill-health.

The inquiry has heard from a huge number of prostate cancer survivors, many of whom asked for a screening programme for all men aged 50 and older.

Dr Hutchison could not go into detail about the committee’s findings but said there were two main conclusions.

‘‘We will not be recommending a PSA screening programme. However, we will be encouraging men to go to their GPs to discuss options … including whether or not they should have a PSA test.

‘‘Those are the two points that are loud and clear.’’

Prostate Cancer Foundation president Mark von Dadelszen said the organisation did not support a national screening programme because of ‘‘issues’’ with the PSA test.

‘What it does advocate is that men should be encouraged to have screening tests . . . we would certainly applaud that move.’’

Napier farmer Duncan McLean, who has just got the all-clear five years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, said encouragement was good but the committee should recommend a full screening programme.

Mr McLean, 57, had his prostate gland removed in 2006 after several years of increasingly high PSA readings, followed by a biopsy that confirmed the cancer.

‘‘PSA testing is essential. I’m alive today because of it. It’s really disappointing they’re not [recommending screening].’’

Fears about over-treatment were ‘‘bollocks’’, he said. ‘‘You don’t leap in and go under the surgeon’s knife – I was monitored for three years before I had surgery.’’

International research on the matter is split, with several largescale studies under way.

The results of a 20-year Swedish study, published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, found screening did not significantly reduce prostate cancer deaths but the risk of overdetection and unnecessary treatment was considerable.

However, another Swedish study found death from prostate cancer more than halved among men who were screened.

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PROSTABLOG NZ: The ideological debate about prostate cancer screening hasn’t moved along much in New Zealand over the past few years.

I’m judging this from an anecdote a guest speaker at my journalism course told students this week.

An experienced journalist, she said a few years ago she was writing a piece for NZ Listener magazine about PSA screening, and the Ministry of Health would speak to her only on the condition they got to see the resulting article prior to publication.

That usually causes journalists to feel apprehensive, and in this case her fears were realised.

The Ministry people hit the roof over what she wrote (basically, that all men over 50 should be urged to get PSA tests), and made this plain to her editor.

Judging by what I heard from the Ministry team at the Health Select Committee hearing into prostate cancer screening late last year, the official view is still the same: PSA bad.

Speaking of which – I wonder when we’re going to hear anything further from the committee?

Chairman Paul Hutchison made the MOH people promise to deliver their final views last November.

Did they?

Are there more hearings?

When will we see the results?

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Paul Hutchison

PAUL HUTCHISON

PROSTABLOG NZ: MP Paul Hutchison – chair of the upcoming Parliamentary inquiry into prostate cancer – is making no secret of where his sympathies lie when it comes to increasing awareness of the disease.

He will be one of the Blue September prostate cancer “dawn walkers” in Manukau City this weekend.

His allegiance to the cause of reducing confusion about prostate cancer and advice given to men was strongly established earlier this month when he published an opinion piece in the Capital city’s morning newspaper, the Dominion Post.

KevinHague

KEVIN HAGUE

In that, he called the present situation “untenable”.

His stance contrasts strongly with at least one other member of the Health Select Committee, Green list MP Kevin Hague, who called it a waste of time as soon as it was announced in June.

Dr Hutchison’s tramp through early morning Auckland will be on one of three dawn walks for Blue September that kick off at 7am this Sunday – in Wellington, Napier and Manukau City.

The Wellington one starts at the Freyberg Pool in Oriental Parade, the Napier jaunt from the Soundshell in Marine Parade, and the Auckland one goes from Totara Park in Manurewa.

Particpants are encouraged to turn up in blue clothing and wearing blue face paint, like that worn by the campaign’s celebrity figureheads, Buck Shelford, Paul Holmes, and TVNZ reporter John Sellwood.

DawnWalkMap

WELLERS DAWN WALK: Around Mt Vic - 7am Sunday - start at Freyberg Pool.

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JUNE 27: OTAGO DAILY TIMES: Many men in New Zealand are suffering side effects after radiotherapy and surgery for prostate cancer which would never have killed them, and a screening programme would increase this, says University of Otago public health researcher Dr Brian Cox. READ MORE>

He was commenting on the recent announcement by chairman of the Health Committee Dr Paul Hutchison that the committee will conduct an inquiry into optimal screening (or early detection) and treatment of prostate cancer.

Dr Cox is concerned there is already considerable over treatment of men for this disease with very little evidence of any reduction in deaths from it.

Dr Cox, an epidemiologist, recently published an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal. READ IT HERE>

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