OBJECTIVE: To explore the nature and structure of cancer support groups in the state of NSW Australia. METHOD: Support groups were identified through The Cancer Council NSW and a cancer consumer advocacy group. Participants (n = 179) were cancer support group coordinators who completed a cross-sectional audit assessing the group setting, facilitation, structure and difficulties experienced by groups. RESULTS: In NSW there has been a marked increase in the number of available cancer support groups. The main variations between groups related to their location, specificity, setting, leadership and structure. The most frequently identified objectives of groups were to provide psychological support and information. The main difficulty being faced by groups was poor attendance and referral. CONCLUSIONS: There is great diversity in the nature and structure of cancer support groups in NSW. There is an increased availability of cancer support groups in NSW. Mutual understanding between group coordinators and health professionals may help improve the usage and viability of cancer support groups.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men. At present, there is no definitive data confirming that widespread screening for prostate cancer will reduce the death rate from this disease. In Australia population based screening for prostate cancer in asymptomatic men is not promoted. However, regardless of public health views on this issue, prostate-specific antigen testing in Australian men is prevalent. Most guidelines advocate that asymptomatic men seeking prostate-specific antigen testing to detect early prostate cancer should be advised of the pros and cons of testing and make an informed choice. The difficult task of managing consumer demands in the face of conflicting viewpoints and uncertain medico-legal requirements usually falls on general practitioners who until recently have had few resources to assist them. This paper describes the development and evaluation of a pilot general practitioners education program in Victoria. After attendance, participants’ knowledge about prostate-specific antigen testing and level of understanding increased, they were more likely to initiate discussions with patients about the risks and benefits of testing and were more confident in doing so. Participant satisfaction with the program and materials was high. In a health topic characterised by divergent viewpoints, this program provides evidence of the benefits of taking a collaborative and consultative approach and closely linking program development to general practitioners’ expressed needs.