Raising awareness of prostate cancer treatment inequalities for older men

Back to all Motions

2015 National Retired Members Conference
17 June 2015

Prostate Cancer UK has researched the way older men receive treatment for diagnosed prostate cancer. In their report ‘5 Inequalities/ 5 Solutions’, the evidence produced reiterates the need that the action called for in Motion 16, UNISON National Retired Members Conference 2014, Southport, should be implemented urgently together with more specific action to further the campaign.

Although it is important that age should be considered when treating prostate cancer, other conditions should be included in the consideration. Men may have been exposed to different environmental conditions, levels of activity and lifestyles, all of which will affect their health. Therefore, at every stage of a man’s prostate cancer journey, his personal circumstances, not just his age, must be taken into account.

It is recommended that men are provided with information about side effects of treatment. Even NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) Guideline 175 Prostate Cancer states ‘Adequately inform men with prostate cancer and their partners or carers about the effects of prostate cancer and the treatment options on their sexual function, physical appearance, continence and other aspects of masculinity. Support men and their partners or carers in making decisions, taking into account the effects on quality of life as well as survival.’

Despite this, only 53% of men aged 76 and over of prostate cancer patients were told about side effects that could affect them in the future and only 71% of men aged 51-65 were given the information. It is a concern that age alone may be considered when treatment and side effects are discussed and may limit the options for some men regardless of their physical fitness or preferences.

NHS England, the Department of Health and other relevant organisations are being pressured to monitor and investigate the cases of age related problems in treatment routes. The Department of Health has proposed wider societal benefit should be considered when assessing drugs for approval. This is a measure which takes account of the return society can get from treating an individual back to full health. For example, enabling an adult to return to work following illness, including return to employment as a societal benefit will effectively discriminate against cancer drugs as the majority of prostate cancer patients are either retired or in the later stages of their working career. This will discriminate on the course of treatment for older men.

Therefore, this UNISON National Retired Members Conference instructs the National Retired Members Committee and calls on the National Executive Council to:

1. campaign to stop discrimination in the treatment of prostate cancer for older men by NHS England and the Department of Health;

2. support the research and advice given by the Prostate Cancer UK charity by making the issues more widely known through UNISON publications / leaflets, National, Regional and Branch websites / newsletters;

3. report back to the UNISON National Retired Members Conference 2016 with actual evidence of campaigning and results.