GPs' 'outdated' prostate cancer advice is killing men - expert

An expert says out-of-date prostate cancer information being given by doctors is killing patients. 

Diagnosis numbers have increased by 24 percent in just two years, the fastest increase of any of the top five cancers in New Zealand, according to Ministry of Health data.

Prostate Cancer Foundation CEO Graeme Woodside says better training would go a long way to reversing that trend.

"A number of GPs are working on outdated information from probably a decade ago, and are not aware of some of the new processes in diagnosis and treatment."

A new campaign, Blue September, will aim to raise awareness for the 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each day. It comes just as the Government's new 10-year cancer plan is about to be announced.

"We have not actually been consulted in the process of putting this plan together, which we're concerned about as we represent tens of thousands of cancer patients," said Woodside.

"Three key areas are to blame for the current state of prostate cancer in New Zealand - firstly the DHBs have got a long way to go to expedite treatment as many men are relocating or travelling for treatment, forced to wait months for surgery or simply dying on the waiting list.

"The abandonment of cancer treatment targets by the Labour Government has left DHBs without any measurement of appropriate timelines, causing unnecessary stress and uncertainty."

Labour canned the targets in 2018, saying they were leading to "perverse outcomes", with "traditionally cheaper surgeries performed in more expensive environments" in order to hit meaningless milestones.

Nearly half of men surveyed by the Prostate Cancer Foundation said they were confused at what to do next after being diagnosed, "faced with too many decisions, not enough information and resorting to the internet for guidance". 

Something Woodside would like to see is free screening for the disease, which will affect one in eight Kiwi men during their lifetime.

"Having to pay a GP fee to go and get a prostate check for some people is a real barrier. So a lot of guys simply don't go to the doctor because of the cost factor."

Six hundred New Zealanders die from prostate cancer every year.