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tony ryall_29JUNE 5: PROSTABLOG NZ:  Prostate cancer is a priority for the new National Government, says Minister of Health Tony Ryall (right).

The fact prostate cancer is not specifically listed as one of the six new Health Targets does not mean the issue is no longer a priority, he says in reply to a query from Prostablog.

He was asked to explain why prostate cancer did not rate a mention when he announced six new Health Targets in May, after he told media in January that prostate cancer was a priority for the Government.

“The health targets I announced focus on six measurable targets, one of which is shorter waiting times for patients needing radiation therapy,” he says in a letter received by Prostablog author Jim Tucker today. “Therefore some men with prostate cancer will benefit from this new target.”

The Cancer Control Strategy was still in place with its focus on improving services for all types of cancer.

The work on prostate cancer included the provision of good information for men considering having a PSA test.

“There are differing opinions about the value of population screening of men without symptoms using PSA testing,” says Mr Ryall.

“NZ’s present policy on screening our population for prostate cancer is the same as those of Australia, the UK, the US, Canada and European countries, and aligns with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation.”

Analysis of data on PSA testing volumes and practice in NZ showed that about 50% of men in the older age group were already being tested “on an opportunistic basis”.

This was comparable to participation rates in screening programmes in other countries.

“The Ministry of Health continues to review the international evidence about PSA screening, including the latest evaluations of tests and screening programmes,” he says.

The NZ Guidelines Group, with the Royal NZ College of GPs, had developed a resource called Testing for Prostate Cancer: a consultation resource, which aided the discussion between a man and his general practitioner as part of a consultation.

The advice provided in the resource was consistent with international approaches and advice (see MOH website: www.moh.govt.nz )

Mr Ryall says the MOH and the Health Research Council were planning research into prostate cancer treatment outcomes in NZ: “When completed, this research will provide quantifiable data around successful treatment and any detrimental side effects.”

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