Australia’s peak professional organisation for clinical radiologists and radiation oncologists has united with leading cancer groups to call for changes to ensure Australian men with localised prostate cancer understand and are fully informed of all available treatment options, including the role of radiation therapy.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR) has released its position statement, Informed Decision Making in the Management of Localised Prostate Cancer – A Patient-Focused Perspective, with the support of leading groups Cancer Institute NSW, Cancer Voices and a number of local prostate cancer support groups. The statement highlights clear calls-to-action to ensure men with prostate cancer needing curative treatment are fully informed about their surgery and radiation therapy treatment options.
Prostate cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. It is estimated that close to 18,000 more men will be diagnosed with the disease this year.i Many of these men are suitable for radiation therapy (as an alternative to surgery) but do not get to fully explore the radiation option.
According to Associate Professor Sandra Turner, Radiation Oncologist and elected councillor of RANZCR’s Faculty of Radiation Oncology Council, best practice is for men to see a radiation oncologist as well as a surgeon (urologist) in order to receive accurate up-to-date information to assist them in making decisions that are best for them.
“The position statement was developed to ensure men with prostate cancer are at the centre of the decision-making process. We recognised that this is not always the case. We need to strongly support and encourage consultations with a urologist and a radiation oncologist – who is a specialist in the area of prostate radiation therapy – so men can be fully informed about equally effective, but very different, options for their treatment and can then have input to their preferences,” said A/Professor Turner.
Following the consultation process, key stakeholders both during and since the consultation process have expressed their support for the position statement and agree that all men need to understand the benefits of speaking to a urologist and radiation oncologist before embarking on curative treatment.
Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of Cancer Institute NSW, said the RANZCR position statement reinforces the role patients, healthcare professionals and health services play in making sure men have all the information they need to make informed decisions.
“This position statement focuses on informed decision making for men diagnosed with localised prostate cancer. Patients, surgeons, radiation oncologists together need to inform this discussion. Men diagnosed with localised prostate cancer need to be aware of their opportunities to speak to the relevant specialists before they decide on a treatment path,” said Professor Currow.
Sydney-based GP, Dr Martine Walker, says the position statement highlights the importance of multi-disciplinary care and how primary healthcare professionals can help to educate patients and provide all necessary information and referrals.
“All men are owed the chance to be fully informed before they make decisions about their prostate cancer treatment. In my experience, not all men have the chance to be adequately informed about the treatments that are out there, especially radiation therapy. I’ve had patients, once they had the opportunity to speak to a surgeon and radiation oncologist, decide to have radiation therapy with a very positive result. This formal statement will really help GPs advocate for patients so they get balanced information about their treatment options. Anything that helps men to be more empowered in the decision-making process is a big plus,” said Dr Walker.
Lee Hunt, Executive Member of Cancer Voices, hopes RANZCR’s position statement will be a catalyst for conversations on how to improve existing processes.
“This is a positive step forward to improving prostate cancer patient outcomes. We need to look at ways we can modify the way men receive information about their surgical and radiation therapy options. Deciding on what cancer treatment to undergo is a deeply personal process, but it can only occur once patients have been fully guided by their primary healthcare professionals and specialists,” said Mrs Hunt.
Malcolm Peck, a Melbourne-based prostate cancer survivor, underwent successful radiation therapy to cure his cancer ten years ago. The cancer has not returned and Mr Peck is completely well.
“When I was diagnosed with localised prostate cancer, I conducted as much research as possible regarding treatment options to get rid of the cancer. I was fortunate that my surgeon assessed my situation and suggested that radiation therapy might be the best treatment option for me. I was able to confidently choose to undergo radiation because I had spoken to both a surgeon and a radiation oncologist. That was the right decision for me and, even though it is terrifying to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis, more men need to take the time to explore all the options available to them,” said Mr Peck.RANZCR hopes the newly-released position statement will promote better patient-focused care for men with prostate cancer.
“The decision about treatment comes down largely to the man’s choice based on having all the expert information and time to consider and discuss his options. More needs to be done to ensure men with prostate cancer advised to have curative treatment are referred to a radiation oncologist as well as the urologist to weigh up all their treatment options,” said A/Professor Turner.
For more information about cancer treatment options and the potential benefits of radiation therapy, visit www.targetingcancer.com.au