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Prostate biopsies save lives

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Australian men undergoing testing for prostate cancer should be reassured biopsies are a very safe
procedure, and with appropriate antibiotic coverage, pose a very low risk of infection.
A report in today’s The Age newspaper suggests men who aren’t offered a relatively new method of biopsy,
not currently available in all Australian hospitals, are at risk of serious infection or death.

“This is a serious exaggeration of the situation and we would be very concerned if it unnecessarily alarmed
or deterred men who don’t have access to the new way of doing the test, from having a biopsy to confirm
whether they have a potentially life-threatening cancer,” said the Urological Society of Australia and New
Zealand Vice President, Professor Mark Frydenberg.

The current standard of care is a transrectal biopsy which is used in 95% of cases. The new, transperineal
method pierces the prostate by needles being passed through the skin between the scrotum and anus under
an anaesthetic. By avoiding piercing the rectal wall the risk of infection is reduced.

“While the transperineal method offers some advantages, it requires additional equipment and for the
patient to have a general anaesthetic – all of which adds costs to an already stretched health system. Men
should be reassured their health is not seriously compromised by not having access to the relatively new
technique, says Professor Frydenberg.

“While there is approximately a 1 -2 per cent infection rate infection rate from transrectal biopsies, these are
reduced by the use of antibiotics at the time of the procedure, and by giving special, precautionary
antibiotics to men who have travelled to South East Asia making them at increased risk of an infection from a
‘superbug’.”

“The risk of dying from a biopsy is extremely rare – less than 0.1 per cent – with most infections that do occur
being easily treated with a short hospital stay and intravenous antibiotics,” said Professor Frydenberg.

“The fact is men are significantly more likely to die from prostate cancer than die, or even have a serious
infection from a biopsy, and the risk should be weighed up accordingly,” says Professor Frydenberg.

For further media information please contact:
Edwina Gatenby, Maxicom Public Relations +61 2 9965 9302 Mobile: +61 402 130 254 Email:
edwina@maxicom.net.au

The Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand is the peak professional body for urological surgeons in
Australia and New Zealand. Urologists are surgeons who treat men, women and children with problems
involving the kidney, bladder, prostate and male reproductive organs. These conditions include cancer,
stones, infection, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and pelvic floor problems.

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