14,000 men ‘missing out on lifesaving prostate cancer treatment’

Fewer men are being treated compared with before the pandemic.

17 February 2022

Around 14,000 men in England could have undiagnosed prostate cancer and may be in need of urgent treatment, a charity has warned.

More than 58,000 men in England have begun treatment for prostate cancer since the start of the pandemic – 14,000 fewer than would have been expected in pre-pandemic numbers, according to Prostate Cancer UK.

The charity said it was concerned that the number of “missing” patients would continue to grow.

For many, symptoms do not appear until the disease has already spread, so the charity is urging men to use its risk assessment tool.

Those at higher risk are urged to contact their GP.

The charity said many men have felt reluctant to “bother” their GP during the pandemic.

Anyone who does experience symptoms, such as problems urinating or needing to go more often, should speak to their doctor to get checked.

The condition is treatable if caught early, which is why the charity, along with NHS England, are working to find the “missing” patients.

Stephen Fry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 after a routine health check (PA)
Stephen Fry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 after a routine health check (PA)

Actor Stephen Fry, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 after a routine health check, and presenter Bill Turnbull have backed the campaign.

Fry said: “As you can imagine, I was pretty knocked back when I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer, particularly as I had no symptoms to indicate anything was wrong – something I later learned is very common. Thankfully it was caught early, making it more treatable.

“That’s why I’d urge you to check your risk and speak to your GP if you have any concerns – even if you feel completely well, as I did.

“Prostate Cancer UK’s risk checker can help you understand your risk and the next steps to take.”

Turnbull said: “So much has been done to raise awareness of prostate cancer in recent years, and it’s critical we don’t lose any more ground because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Prostate cancer is so much more treatable when it’s caught early, unfortunately mine wasn’t. So if you’re a man who’s at risk of the disease or worried about prostate cancer, don’t put off going to the doctor to talk about it.

“It’s understandable that people haven’t wanted to go to their GP during a pandemic, but the message is that the NHS is open and they want to see you. You can also find out more about your risk and what you can do about it by using the risk checker on Prostate Cancer UK’s website.”

Nicola Tallett, acting chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, but the pandemic has meant thousands of men have not come forward for diagnosis and could be missing out on lifesaving treatment.

“Although thousands of men are still being treated each month, if things don’t change soon, the number of men missing out will continue to grow.

“Men have been telling us they haven’t wanted to ‘bother’ their GP during the pandemic – particularly if they don’t have any symptoms, which is the case for most men with early prostate cancer. This means men at higher risk of the disease are not having those vital conversations about their risk that can lead to a diagnosis.

“That’s why we’re working with NHS England to raise awareness and encourage men to take our risk checker to find out more about their risk and what they can do about it.”

Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer for NHS England, said: “I urge you to use the Prostate Cancer UK risk checker today – it is a quick and easy way to understand your risk of prostate cancer and how you can take further action if you are at risk.

“The prognosis for the people we’re yet to see will be much better the earlier we see them but we do need to see them as soon as possible.

“It’s important men understand prostate cancer often doesn’t show any symptoms at an early stage, so don’t delay – check your risk now. The simple check could be lifesaving.”

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