Where did Winston pluck his prostate policy from?

Prostate cancer is a major problem for men as they age. About 3000 of us in New Zealand are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, and about 600 die from it each year.

Promoting testing and detection of prostate cancer is a laudable aim, but the way Winston Peters has proposed incentivising getting check-ups seems rather odd.

NZ Herald: No prostate check, no tax refund? Winston wants changes

Winston Peters says changes are needed to get more Kiwi men to have their prostate health checked – saying tax refunds could be withheld until such check-ups are made.

The New Zealand First caucus has discussed what could be done to get more men to have check-ups, Peters told the Herald. Policy had been developed but hadn’t been released yet.

“What I’m saying is there should be serious incentivisation for people to go and get checked. Because it is costing the state a packet because of their lack of early detection, they end up being a charge or their dependants become a charge on the state,” Peters said.

“It is just a bad neglect of human capital. And of course there are appalling figures.”

Peters said one possible change would be to withhold tax refunds unless a man could prove he had a check-up. That wouldn’t necessarily require a doctor’s certificate.

“These days you can computerise all these things … this is far easier than it used to be. I don’t want people to be filling out forms.”

Promoting check-ups is a good thing, but using money owed to you by Inland Revenue is mad and badly targeted. It would only affect men who have over payed tax. Most people with regular earnings have accurate tax deductions so won’t be due refunds.

Where has this idea come from?

The Herald spoke to Peters after he talked about the need for changes while answering questions from an audience at the Gisborne Cosmopolitan Club. He said not nearly enough was being done to prevent illness, citing prostate cancer as an example.

Peters appears to be made this idea up on the fly. I can’t see any mention of a prostate policy on the NZ First website.

“Prostate cancer is a psychological condition more than anything else – mainly of men who need a good kick up you-know-where,” Peters told the gathering.

The severity of prostate cancer may be in part be due to psychological resistance to having a doctor put their finger up your arse, but cancer is not “a psychological condition”.

“Frankly, if I had my way I would have further compulsory requirements for every male in this country, so it goes something like this – your taxation is that, but you are not getting it back until I see you with an annualised check or a two-yearly check.

“Why? Because the moment things go wrong, there is a massive cost to the state of dependence.”

There has to be better ways of doing it. A better incentive may be to only issue gold cards to men who have been tested, but that would be inappropriate as well.

Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ has campaigned for men to not “die of embarrassment” and get checked regularly. There are two tests: the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam. Men aged 50-plus should be making these appointments regularly.

I may have had it checked a few years ago, maybe I should get around to it again some time, but threatening withholding a tax refund is not going to make any difference.

I had calculated tax to pay of 21 cents last year.

Why has Peters brought this up? Is there a reason he has the state of prostates on his mind?

Whatever, it’s a good idea but a bad incentive.

Living in hope of new drugs

Serious, life threatening and life ending illnesses have always been a problem, sometimes at epidemic and even pandemic proportions.

Tuberculosis has been around since at least neolithic times. The Great White Plague epidemic started in the 17th century and lasted about 200 years. The industrial revolution enabled it.  Both my grandfather’s brothers died of TB aged 19.

The 1918 flu pandemic infected about half a billion people around the world and killed 50-100 million, 3-5% of the world population. This followed the massive loss of life during World War 1 – many men who survived the horrors of the trenches died of the flu, or spread it around the world as they returned to their home countries.

TB and the flu haven’t gone away completely but are currently less deadly in developed countries like New Zealand.

Now our biggest killers are heart disease and the various types of cancer that have now been identified.

Modern medicine has made avoidance and survival much more achievable (but something gets us all in the end).

One significant change is hope – hope that medical advances will prevent or cure diseases.

This must be an difficult for those who are suffering, especially those who know there are new drugs available elsewhere but are unavailable or unaffordable.

Others are helped by currently available life extending drugs, but live in hope of something better becoming available.

I can barely imagine what it must be like living in this situation, but that’s the situation  Dunedin’s deputy mayor is currently in.

ODT: Staynes making the most of remission

Dunedin’s deputy mayor is readying himself for one last term on the council, after treatment halted the spread of his prostate cancer.

While Cr Chris Staynes’ cancer has not gone away, he said yesterday it was in “a controlled state” that meant he was ready to continue in his role for another three years, if the vote went his way in October.

In April last year Cr Staynes (65) was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Tests later confirmed the cancer had spread to his bones at multiple sites, meaning his long-term prognosis appeared bleak.

But yesterday he said after chemotherapy that was “not so good”, and medication, his health was “at the moment good”.

His specialist had told him yesterday his prostate-specific antigen result, which tested for an enzyme in the blood produced exclusively by prostate cells, was zero.

That meant the cancer was neither spreading or growing.

The medication he was taking to get that result, however, would “work for a while; at some point, it will cease working”.

Once that happened, there was another drug that would hold the cancer, but for a shorter time, and another, more recently funded, that “could buy you a bit more time, but shorter again”.

“What you hope is they last as long as they possibly can.”If he got five years from the drug he was on, “that’s a great outcome”, he said.

The longer he lived, the longer he was likely to live because of the research that was going on.

Sooner or later, new drugs would come on the market.

I really feel for him and others in similar situations (as much as is possible without facing it myself), living in hope of life saving or better life extending drugs or treatments.

I must admit that when one gets on a bit, and one notices more people of a similar age falling victim to disease and death, one tends to ponder things like this a lot more.

One thing it reminds me to do is be very thankful I can still enjoy life and good health. Neither of my grandfathers lived as long as I have survived, but I live in much better times as far as medicines and wares are concerned.

More sex recommended for older men

A natural health researcher has released a report that says men as young as 40 need to adopt a natural preventative approach, which includes more sex, to improve prostate health.

I don’t know how good the science is behind this but as long as it’s consensual sex or self administered it should at least do no harm and make for some happier men.

NZ Herald: More sex for a healthy prostate – report

A new report, Prostate Health… Sex, Lies and Misconceptions, released by Christchurch-based natural health researcher Warren Matthews, says men as young as 40 need to adopt a natural preventative approach, which includes more sex, to improve prostate health.

Frustrated by misinformation and a lack of medical emphasis on clinically-proven natural preventative treatments, Mr Matthews speaks frankly with men about the pros and cons of the digital prostate exam and other interventions used in the diagnosis and treatment of an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer.

“There are thousands of men worldwide who have had unnecessary, invasive or non-surgical intervention for issues of the prostate, and are now having to deal with sexual dysfunction, incontinence, rectal bleeding and other serious or permanent side effects,” he said.

“These side effects can have a dramatic impact on a man’s sexual wellbeing and self-esteem. It’s time for men to fight prostate cancer by understanding what clinically-proven natural alternatives are available, and practice prevention much earlier.”

Prostrate cancer is a significant ‘men’s problem’. Some men may think that a lack of sex is a problem too.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand, one in 13 men will develop prostate cancer before the age of 75.

If more sex can help prevent prostrate cancer it’s got to be a good thing.

However I’m a bit sceptical about the report generally – it has been published on a commercial health website:

Prostate Health… Sex, Lies and Misconceptions

Introduction

This special report should be read by every man 40+. If you are a woman who has a partner, husband, brother, father or a male friend aged 40+, please share this report with him.

Armed with this knowledge it could not only ultimately save your/their life, it could also have an enormous impact on your/their future sense of wellbeing, comfort, and reduce the risk of sexual dysfunction and thus have a positive impact on personal relationships.

I have been prompted to write this as a result of the publicity which is given to ‘Blue September’ each year as part of ‘Prostate Awareness Month’. You may have seen the television adverts showing a male Doctor snapping on a surgical glove and pointing his finger in the air! The message is urging men to go and have a ‘digital prostate exam’.

The ‘digital’ part of the exam has nothing to do with computers…it is a politically correct term for the digits on our hand, otherwise known as fingers.

I’m not sure if the last paragraph is a serious explanation or an attempt at humour.

I’ve found doctors to still be a very good source of health advice. On my last few visits they have asked, listened and explained well, and it has become common for them to provide web links where further information can be found. That isn’t to commercial websites.

This is one site that I’ve been pointed to that seems useful:  Patient – trusted medical information and support

Patient on Prostate Cancer (it doesn’t mention more sex).

New Zealand Prostate Cancer Foundation