TV team labelled ‘irresponsible’ over medical checks


The Sunrise team. Image: Facebook

Channel Seven’s Sunrise team have come under fire for sensationalising cancer and promoting medical checks which may not be necessary

Sunrise marketed the “Special event” segments as “the difference between life and death: the medical checks every Australian needs”.

“This week the hosts at Sunrise are undergoing various lifesaving medical tests to spread awareness,” the show’s website states.

“These are the diseases and illnesses that will claim the lives of millions of Aussies,” Mr Koch declared on February 12. “This morning, I’m getting tested for prostate cancer.”

He said he tries to be tested for prostate cancer “fairly regularly” and that it’s important for “boofhead blokes like me” who avoid doctor visits to do so.

“The reality is more men die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer,” he said.

Samantha Armytage had her first mammogram during the week and received a callback to look at the pectoral muscle behind her breast, though she was then cleared; Natalie Barr underwent a heart stress test.

Ms Armytage is now encouraging women aged 40 and over to have mammograms.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has slammed the series, with president Dr Bastian Seidel saying he is “disturbed” that a national TV program could sensationalise a subject as serious as cancer.

“The advice delivered in the Sunrise series ‘The medical checks you have to have’ was not in line with current RACGP guidelines and far from encouraging patients to speak to their GP about prostate checks that could potentially save their lives,” Dr Seidel says.

“Contrary to what was suggested on this show, routine screening without discussion with each individual patient about the benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer is not recommended.”

Dr Seidel says RACGP guidelines recommend GPs only request a PSA blood test after the patient has been informed about the risks and benefits of testing and has requested a test.

“A digital rectal examination is no longer recommended,” Dr Seidel says.

Professor Paul Glasziou, a GP with the Wiser Healthcare research collaboration, says that the proposed screening went against both RACGP and NHMRC guidelines and ignored the downsides of some screening.

“Screening for prostate or breast cancer should be an informed choice. There are harms as well as benefits of screening and these need to be fully understood by people before they are tested,” Professor Glasziou says.

“In general, prostate screening is not encouraged, and for most women mammography is only appropriate in the 50-70 age range.

“Screening guidelines are there for a reason – they are designed to maximise the benefits of screening and minimise the harms. For instance, breast cancer screening for women in their 40s has little benefit for women’s health.

“Instead, it poses a significant risk of mistakenly diagnosing and treating a lesion, which will not cause problems, as cancer.

“We are disappointed to see Sunrise giving advice about screening to millions of viewers that is incorrect. It is irresponsible.”

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