Routine prostate tests not appropriate: academic

Thursday, 13 February 2003

A University of Adelaide cancer specialist has defended comments made in today's Australian Financial Review by Cancer Council of Australia CEO Professor Alan Coates, who said he would not be tested for prostate cancer because there was no proof testing saves people's lives.

Professor Ian Olver, who is the Cancer Council Professor of Cancer Care in the University's Faculty of Health Sciences, says prostate cancer testing is not yet advanced enough to predict what problems detected cancers would cause.

"More people die with prostate cancer rather than of prostate cancer - they often die of something else, because prostate cancer is a disease which can be in the background for many years," he says.

"At this stage with routine screening we just can't tell with many prostate cancers which ones will cause problems and which ones won't. The treatment for prostate cancer is quite severe and causes major side effects such as impotence and incontinence.

"Until the routine screening process for prostate cancer is developed enough that we are able to tell how aggressive a prostate cancer is, then there is little value in alarming patients and prescribing this treatment which is quite traumatic in its own right."

Professor Olver says public education of the issues associated with prostate cancer and its treatment is vital.

"The public need to be informed as to what prostate cancer is, how it is detected and the issues which come with the detection and treatment," he says.

"There is a lot of uninformed opinion circulating which is based on the premise that prostate cancer is like other forms of cancer that we know more about - breast cancer, for example - and that early detection and treatment is crucial.

"It comes down to the individual having as much information about prostate cancer as they can and making an informed decision about whether they want to be screened for it and how they will treat it if they are found to have it."


Contact Details

Professor Ian Olver
Business: +61 8 8222 5577

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762