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New data show prostate cancer treated differently in public and private health settings

Monday 12 October, 2020

A new study by Cancer Council Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services has revealed that men diagnosed with prostate cancer in a private health setting are more likely to receive radical surgery than men diagnosed in a public setting.

The study published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, analysed population-based data from the Victorian Cancer Registry linked to hospital data.

Co-author and Head of Epidemiology at Cancer Council Victoria, Professor Roger Milne, said the study assessed prostate cancer treatments provided to Victorian men within 12 months of diagnosis between years 2011 and 2017.

“The study showed that for men at similar risk of death from prostate cancer, there were substantial differences in treatment. Those diagnosed in a private setting were also more likely to have surgery and less likely to have radiotherapy alone than men diagnosed in a public setting.

“It also showed that men diagnosed in private health settings – compared with those diagnosed in public health settings – were more likely to live in major cities and more socio-economically advantaged areas. They were also more likely to be diagnosed with lower-risk prostate cancers,” said Prof Milne.

Prostate cancer is the most-commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men and has a five-year survival of 95 per cent. Treatment of prostate cancer can cause significant side-effects, like urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Co-author and Clinical Associate Professor Ian Haines said, “This study highlights the need to understand why prostate cancer treatment differs between private and public health settings and whether there is a difference in long-term outcomes. This may change with increased use of more sophisticated prognostic tools, such as MRI, in the future, to help guide treatment choices.

“When radical treatment is being considered, men should have a clear idea about the available treatment options and likely outcomes to ensure that they make fully informed decisions about optimal treatment based on the best evidence.”