Swedish health care provides inferior treatment of prostate cancer to elderly men

The Swedish health care system is often cited as an example. And in general that is probably justified. But there is little doubt that care is denied when the physician – for whatever reason – believes it is not worthwhile. The patient’s life expectancy plays a key part in this judgement. And that automatically leads to the elderly being denied treatment in some cases. After all, the common good requires that resources not be wasted! Perhaps it would be best to simply withhold all care for people over 70 – or should we say 75?

The Swedish health system does provide inferior treatment to men with prostate cancer if they are over 70 years old. A report from Lund University exposes yet another example of the age discrimination that is endemic in Sweden. And as the country ages, we can expect such denial of care to increase.

Until the over 70s start to exercise their political power.


Many older men are not getting the cancer treatment they need. New Swedish research shows that men between 70 and 80 years are often under-treated despite having a high risk of prostate cancer. According to the national guidelines men should  have surgery or radiation treatment, but many are denied access to these treatments. The doctors believe that patients are too old, says Associate Professor Ola Bratt at Lund University in the research report that was presented at an international urology meeting in Madrid.

Prof. Ola Bratt has examined all the 19 000 men especially at risk and treated for prostate cancer  in Sweden between 2001 and 2012. He notes that doctors often misjudged the patient’s expected lifetime. The doctors have simply ignored vital treatment because they mistakenly believed that the patients would die soon.

“Such an old-fashioned and rather jaundiced view of today’s 70 year olds can have devastating consequences. It can not be the intention that Swedish men should die prematurely”.

Ola Bratt notes that there are large differences between different parts of Sweden. Between 2001 and 2012, the proportion of men over 70 years who received curative treatment was 15-38 percent, but the proportion varies greatly between counties – from 13 percent in Örebro County to 85 percent in Kronoberg County, according to the National Prostate Cancer Register. Many men are thus losers in the great cancer lottery. Those who want to survive, should stay in the right county and go to the right doctor.

There is a shortage of urologists and many of them are available in small clinics that may not keep up with the latest developments. Choice of care has also contributed to more private clinics taking responsibility for severe disease and the patient is then challenged to find the right treatment in a jungle of offers.

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One Response to “Swedish health care provides inferior treatment of prostate cancer to elderly men”

  1. And so it begins! UK writes off its over 75s | The k2p blog Says:

    […] indicators are already visible. Expensive treatments will be the first to go. I have already posted about prostate cancer treatment being denied to those considered too old (over 70) in some parts of […]

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