Maori, rural men avoid prostate check - study

Last updated 10:15 11/07/2014
Phil Hunt
Phil Hunt

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It was vigilance that saved him.

When Rotorua father Phil Hunt, 47, was diagnosed with prostate cancer he was worried, but not surprised.

"My father, two uncles and a cousin have all been diagnosed with prostate cancer, so I knew I was at risk," he says.

"My prostate was removed pronto.

"If you are a single male, you could have really big issues with that. But I have a fantastic family behind me and there is so much community support."

Hunt then underwent radiotherapy five days a week for six weeks.

"I couldn't just sit back and rest on my laurels, I needed to be unafraid." Hunt says he was told by medical staff not to worry about having his prostate checked until he was over 50, but with a family history of the disease he insisted.

Despite the struggle of the past four years, Hunt says he wants to encourage men to get checked.

"Do your annual warrant of fitness. There are too many of us dropping for no reason."

In New Zealand almost 600 men die from prostate cancer each year, but a new study indicates rural men are less likely to be screened.

Researchers at Waikato Hospital's Bryant Education Centre have found Maori and rural men showed significantly lower rates of prostate screening than their pakeha and urban counterparts.

Lead researcher Professor Ross Lawrenson says the study explored pathways of care associated with prostate cancer.

"Among our findings, we have found significant variation in screening between GP practices with Maori and rural men less likely to be screened."

The study found Maori men were less likely to develop prostate cancer than non-Maori. However, Maori men were more likely to die with or from prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer Foundation New Zealand chief executive Graeme Woodside says the reasons for the discrepancy were unclear.

"My anecdotal opinion is that you are dealing with people who are less proactive in terms of men's health - particularly in rural areas. Therefore you are having patients turning up to GPs that are less likely to ask about it and GPs less likely to engage in those conversations." Woodside says the foundation will discuss targeted campaigns to find ways to engage rural men with discussions about health, but it was too premature to announce anything further.

"When caught early [prostate cancer] can be effectively treated."

The study has provided the Ministry of Health with a series of recommendations to improve data collection, cost and early diagnosis - including funding for dedicated sexual function support as part of post-treatment rehabilitation.

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- Waikato


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