Prostate cancer diagnoses too slow: data

Prostate cancer diagnoses too slow: data

An alarming number of Australian men are being tested for prostate cancer far too late, new figures suggest.

Prostate cancer is the one of the most common in Australian men, second only to skin cancers, with about 19,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

It is also the second most fatal cancer for Australian men.

Despite that, new data sourced from Medicare shows the average man is diagnosed only when cancer markers in his blood are more than double the threshold for concern.

Australian prostate cancer testing guidelines recommend men be further assessed, often through a biopsy, when they have a family history of the disease and when prostate specific antigens in their blood are greater than 2 – 3 nanograms per millilitre.

But the average man is being diagnosed with a PSA level of 7.3 ng/mL, at the age of 68.

Urologist Dr Peter Swindle says the delay is fuelling death rates in Australia.

“Nearly 3,500 men lost their lives to prostate cancer (in 2020), many due to late diagnosis,” he said.

The prostate cancer has already spread throughout the bodies of about 7 per cent of Australian men by the time they present to urologists, he says.

But Dr Swindle is hopeful developments in artificial intelligence can help detect the cancer earlier and save lives.

He is the medical director of Maxwell Plus, which has compiled the world's largest database of diagnostic information and designed a powerful algorithm that interprets blood tests and MRI results.

The platform is helping detect the cancer earlier, before it spreads, and with more accuracy, Dr Swindle says.

“Maxwell Plus has proven it can detect cases of prostate cancer that were otherwise missed but also it can do so without subjecting men to unnecessary biopsies and overtreatment.”

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