Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency on 2 February 2021 released The State of Cancer in New Zealand 2020 Report, which they refer to as the first stage in an ongoing critical analysis of New Zealand’s cancer care system. This is our response.
While this report offers a comprehensive overview of where cancer sits in the health landscape of New Zealand, there are some glaring issues that receive inadequate coverage and explanation, particularly from the perspective of men with prostate cancer.
What is clear is that men with prostate cancer are not served nearly as well as women with gender specific cancers:
- There is no screening programme, and clearly no intention of investigating one, for prostate cancer. PSA testing does not even get a mention despite the high numbers of men effectively being screened using this test. The section on “harms and benefits” from screening (the tired classic argument used to raise denigrate screening for prostate cancer) is clearly aimed at dispelling any hopes that a prostate cancer screening programme would be considered.
- The report states “Inconsistencies in access to genomic testing is a significant challenge…” What is not stated is that funded genomic testing for men with prostate cancer is not funded but women with breast cancer are offered this – when it is the same genomic sequence that is being identified, namely in the BRCA group. Men suspected of carrying this gene should be provided with the same funded testing opportunity.
- Cancer research for gender specific cancer is clearly weighted in the direction of female cancers with the Health Research Council dispensing approximately $12m to female cancers and $3m to prostate cancer.
In summary, the significant omission in the report is assessing equity based not only on ethnicity and socio-economic measures, but also on gender where gender specific cancers are reported. The Prostate Cancer Foundation urges Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency to work to redress the imbalance between male and female gender specific cancers.
The Foundation welcomes the fact that this report highlights the clear failures in the health system in New Zealand that result in prostate cancer on Maori men being diagnosed later than the rest of the male population, and also being more likely to die because of prostate cancer than the rest of the population.