ACT News

New study shows positive results for prostate cancer caught early as doctors lobby government

A new study has found external-beam radiation therapy has a 95 per cent cure rate for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer, with doctors urging the government to place the treatment on the Medicare benefits scheme.

The eight-year study released on Friday, which was led by Associate Professor Tom Shakespeare from the North Coast Cancer Institute in Port Macquarie, compared different treatment options to determine the most successful form of treatment.  

"The main outcome that we have seen from this study is that external-beam radiation therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for prostate cancer," Professor Shakespeare said.

"These are great results showing that radiation therapy is as effective, or even better, than other common treatment options such as surgery or brachytherapy."

Professor Shakespeare said the overall cure rate for patients treated with external-beam radiation therapy was 93.3 per cent, with a metastasis-free survival rate at five years of 96.6 per cent.

"Based on these results, it is critical that all patients can access multidisciplinary care or be referred to a radiation oncologist for a discussion of this treatment option," he said.

But Professor Shakespeare said this was not always the case.

 "While one in two patients with cancer could benefit from radiation therapy, less than one in three will actually access the treatment.

"Based on these results, it is critical that all patients can access multidisciplinary care or be referred to a radiation oncologist for a discussion of this treatment option.

Dr Dion Forstner, a board member with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, said the federal government was dragging its feet on providing adequate funding for the treatment.

"The Medical Services Advisory Committee has again deferred making a decision on funding this treatment appropriately under the Medicare Benefits Schedule," he said.

"This is a world-class treatment that has already been accepted internationally. At present 1 in 4 patients in Britain who receive radiation therapy are treated with this technique but in Australia that is as low as 1 in 10 patients.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists has urged the government to properly reimburse the radiation therapy so it is available for all patients who would benefit.

Australian Government statistics show prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Australian men, with the exception of skin cancer, and accounted for 30 per cent of all new cancers in 2010.

More than 20,000 Australian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and this number is expected to increase to more than 25,000 in 2020.