Prostate cancer: Petition calling for early screening programme for men goes to Parliament

Calls are growing for an early screening programme to be implemented to tackle the "unacceptable" rising rates of prostate cancer. 

A petition, which has gathered over 30,000 signatures, calling for a nationwide screening programme for prostate cancer will be delivered to Parliament on Thursday. 

The petition was instigated by Kristine Hayward whose husband Bruce died from prostate cancer almost four years ago aged 66. 

She told AM co-host Laura Tupou her husband was a man that could "light up a room" and believes his death was preventable. 

She's desperate for politicians to take the proposal seriously. 

"Get it on track, like we're doing for women. Please, we're desperate. These figures are way too unacceptable, too high. Men die earlier anyway, just look at every rest home so they need all the help they can get with these figures as high as they are," she said.    

The petition is being supported by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ. Its president Danny Bedingfield told AM there are 4000 men diagnosed every year, with 700 men dying each year. 

He warned the statistics are rising and have even overtaken breast cancer for deaths. 

Hayward said the reason it's so crucial to have a screening program is because you can't rely on men to visit their local GP or medical specialist. 

Her husband Bruce had regular medical check-ups with his GP which included prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests. These showed his levels were rising - a key warning sign - but by the time he was referred to a specialist his cancer had metastasised and could not be treated.

"We believe early detection is the way to go and if we did have this national screening it would certainly eliminate this," she said. 

Hayward's husband did everything right to keep on top of his health but still passed away. But despite that, she is confident early detection will help bring these statistics down. 

"What it does is, it gives out huge information and knowledge about prostate cancer and with that comes power," she said. 

Bedingfield said in the past the PSA test hasn't been the most reliable.

But he told AM there has been significant improvement in medicine and science in this area, to now ease those concerns. 

"We've had a significant gain in medicines and science around this and in particular the MRI scan which is becoming far more used in New Zealand," he said. 

"If that becomes part of the pathway... we are going to eliminate that over-diagnosis, treating guys that don't need to be treated. The petition is for a trial of this screening program and what we are really wanting to do is to bring in those guys from around the country who aren't going to GPs or their doctors because we know Kiwi guys, especially rural, Maori are much worse off in the statistics as well so we just need to get these guys aware and bring them in, in order to start the process of testing and finding out if they've got the cancer or not."      

Watch the full interview with Kristine Hayward and Danny Bedingfield in the video above.

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