Posts Tagged ‘National Screening Unit’

PROSTABLOG NZ (April 30):  The Ministry of Health says it will be reviewing the two big, long-term trials in Europe and the US that looked at the effectiveness of prostate testing and screening over about a decade.

“The National Screening Advisory Committee will be reviewing the results of the ERSPC and PLCO trials recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine and at their upcoming quarterly meeting to be held on 18 May 2009 in Wellington,” said the Ministry’s Jennifer Beaulac in a brief statement to Prostablog today.

She is the senior policy analyst, strategy and policy, for the National Screening Unit, Health & Disability National Services Directorate, Ministry of Health.

The statement (requested by Prostablog) comes after advice from the Cancer Society of NZ that it is about to begin a review of its policy statement – formulated in 1999 – on national screening programmes for prostate cancer.

The two overseas studies, which have been long awaited by prostate cancer clinicians, have renewed debate in the US about the effectiveness of the PSA test and other screening methods.

A national screening programme for prostate cancer was rejected by the NZ Government following a Ministry of Health-led review in 2005, and there has been no change in that position since. The Ministry updated –  but did not change – its stance last year after beginning another review in 2006.

The main reason is a fear that more wide-spread screening would lead to greatly increased diagnosis of cancer and the prospect of over-treatment because there is no sure way of knowing whether a tumour poses an immediate threat to a man’s life.

Meantime, testing is available for anyone asking his GP, and government funding is available to pay for tests.

More than half the country’s 50+ males are tested already, and more than 2500 are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It is the second biggest cancer killer of NZ men.

More than 30% of Maori men diagnosed with prostate cancer later die, a rate that is twice that for Pakeha men. The suggestion is that Maori men leave going to the doctor for a checkup until too late, and there are arguments that a national screening programme would help overcome the problem.

That proposition may be reflected in the breast and cervical cancer national screening programmes, which promote heavily to Maori and Pacific island audiences, presumably recognising their reluctance to see doctors until it’s too late.

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