Why you should speak with a urologist and radiation oncologist about your prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common men’s cancer across Australian and New Zealand (ANZ), with about 21,000 men diagnosed with the disease each year. The disease claims the lives of over 3,500 men in the region annually, however, with early diagnosis and the right treatment, it has one of the highest survival rates of all cancers.

However, every prostate cancer is different, and there is no single treatment that suits everyone.

Things to consider

There are many factors to consider when it comes to treatment, and this is a decision that should be made by the treating clinician/s in consultation with the patient. Considerations include how advanced or fast-growing the cancer is, the severity of symptoms, the number and location of the tumour/s, and a person’s overall health.

Treatment options for prostate cancer may include surgery (radical prostatectomy), hormone therapy and/or radiation therapy (including low dose rate brachytherapy). However, while most of these treatments have similar long-term survival outcomes, they may differ in short- and long-term side effect profile, quality of life impact, treatment time, recovery and cost.

We recently sat down with Australia Urologist Dr Stephen Bourne to discuss the 
different considerations in prostate cancer treatment: Click here to watch the video 

Given these differences, it is imperative that men diagnosed with prostate cancer speak with both a urologist (surgeon) and radiation oncologist before making a treatment decision. It is important to ensure these men have balanced and up-to-date information on all available treatment options, to empower them and their families make an informed decision.

In fact, Australia’s Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) recently updated their prostate cancer management recommendations, endorsing the multidisciplinary management of prostate cancer. The new recommendations state men diagnosed with prostate cancer should be offered and encouraged to speak with both a urologist and radiation oncologist prior to any treatment to enable fully informed decision making. These changes were welcomed by the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.

The changes were also supported by recent research published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealing substantial differences in the treatment of prostate cancer in the private compared to public sector, the significant underutilisation of radiation therapy and the fact that few men had spoken with radiation oncologists prior to making a treatment decision (here and here).

Radiation therapy also continues to be underutilised in New Zealand, with reports suggesting that while up to half of cancer patients are considered likely to benefit from radiation, less than a third will receive this type of treatment. This trend is also seen in prostate cancer, with brachytherapy in particular often overlooked as a treatment option.

If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, making a treatment decision can be overwhelming, however your GP, urologist, radiation oncologist and even a prostate cancer nurse, can help you navigate your treatment options and make a confident, and informed decision.

For more information, visit The Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia or The Prostate Cancer Foundation New Zealand.