27 Oct 2012

Australian GPs oppose prostate cancer screening

5:00 pm on 27 October 2012

A group representing Australian GPs says the risks of being screened for prostate cancer outweigh the benefits.

In its latest book of preventative health guidelines, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners advises its members not to recommend prostate cancer screening to patients.

The ABC reports Chris Del Mar of Bond University on the Gold Coast as saying the process is invasive and can lead to health problems.

"To find out whether you've got it involves an involved diagnostic procedures, a biopsy done through the rectum into the prostate," Professor Del Mar says.

While there's a 50% chance men over the age of 60 will have the disease, Professor Del Mar says prostate cancer is entirely benign in most cases.

Personally, he says, if he had the disease, he would not want to know: "The chances are - still - that it won't ever shorten my life."

He says patients who are tested often develop serious infections, erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

Concern about awareness campaigns

Professor Del Mar says he is concerned about public awareness campaigns encouraging men to be screened for prostate cancer.

"There's a lot of confusion in the minds of GPs and the general public," he says. "Screening for prostate cancer ends up doing more harm than good."

The college, which has always opposed screening for prostate cancer, says that medical literature increasingly supports its position.