FINAL year Bachelor of Clinical Science students at Charles Sturt University in Orange have completed research projects into local healthcare with some surprising results.
The students designed and implemented clinically based research projects in the final subject of their degree.
Two groups studied prostate cancer screening practices and oral cancer diagnosis by GPs and presented their findings on campus last week.
The study of prostate cancer screening processes identified differences between rural and metropolitan GPs, with implications for rural men at risk of the disease.
A review of existing literature showed one in seven Australian men will develop prostate cancer by the age of 75, while 19,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in Australia this year.
Two diagnostic tests commonly used to detect the disease are a blood test measuring the ‘prostate specific antigen’ and digital rectal examination.
The research assessed GPs as low, mid and high-level screeners based on whether they routinely screened less than 25 per cent, 26-75 per cent or more than 75 per cent of their asymptomatic male patients over the age of 50 for prostate cancer.
It found 80 per cent of low-level screeners were rural GPs, while 75 per cent of high-level screeners were metropolitan GPs.
The second study investigated recognition by GPs of risk factors and symptoms of oral cancer.
While oral cancer is relatively uncommon and has a low public profile, it is crucial patients seek treatment early as survival rates diminish sharply as the disease progresses.
The student researchers found GPs did not report uniform referral systems when a suspicious lesion was identified in the mouth or throat of a patient and that many GPs preferred to treat oral infections and lesions themselves rather than refer the patient to a dentist.
Both project teams concluded development of specific guidelines for identification and referral of these conditions was necessary to ensure all patients received optimal care. The students pointed out further research was required given the relatively small numbers of respondents in the studies.
The Charles Sturt University Bachelor of Clinical Science has been specifically designed to meet the needs of graduate entry health programs. Many graduates of the program have gone on to study medicine, dentistry and other health-related degrees.