It is clear that a complete change in attitude and approach is now needed by both the public and the medical profession in order to tackle the increasing threat of prostate cancer.
A new study has claimed four in 10 prostate cancer cases in the UK are currently diagnosed late, with a ‘worrying trend’ leading to 37 per cent of prostate cancer cases only being diagnosed when they are at stages three and four.
As specialists in supporting many people who suffer extra harm as a result of the late diagnosis of serious illnesses and diseases such as cancer, our medical negligence team at Hudgell Solicitors sees this scenario far too often.
In many of the cancer cases we handle there have been a number of red flag symptoms overlooked, symptoms which should have automatically triggered more detailed scans and examinations.
Delays in cancer diagnosis can have a massive impact on a person’s chances of recovery, and the extent of treatment they require. With prostate cancer, early detection can often ensure it is treatable, whereas it is mostly incurable if the cancer is advanced when diagnosed.
With that in mind, it was particularly worrying to read in the report by male cancer charity Orchid that 42 per cent of prostate cancer patients said they had seen their GP twice or more before being referred, and six per cent had been seen on five or more occasions.
These are shocking figures, and pose questions not only with regards to why GPs are failing to diagnose prostate cancer, but also as to whether there are serious issues with the referral process across the NHS, and the threshold GPs are working to.
Slow progression of prostate cancer increases need for greater awareness of symptoms
Given men with prostate cancer can live for decades without symptoms or needing treatment because the disease often progresses very slowly, it is vital that we collectively find ways of spotting it much earlier.
For the man on the street, that means knowing the symptoms and acting on them.
These include needing to urinate more often, especially at night, needing to run to the toilet, difficulty in starting to urinate, weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating and having a feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
For the medical professional, the focus has to be on improving the testing and screening in place today, and developing a much more efficient and effective referral system.
The facts are frightening, as figures earlier this year showed the number of men dying from the disease had overtaken female deaths from breast cancer for the first time in the UK. It is now being predicted that prostate cancer will become the most prevalent cancer in the UK in the next 12 years.
We welcome the recent Government announcement of an extra £75m funding for research into the condition, which will see more than 40,000 patients recruited for more than 60 studies in prostate cancer.
This will see treatments including more precise radiotherapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound, cryotherapy, alongside supportive interventions including exercise and dietary advice, tested.
However, whilst this research will undoubtedly make a huge difference to the treatment provided to patients, the key is finding a way to ensure detection rates are much higher, and that they are made much sooner, leading to more effective and less invasive treatment for thousands.
For many years it has been described as the disease men have not wanted to talk about, yet as it now kills more than 11,000 people every year in the UK, with around 47,000 men diagnosed, it has quite rightly been made a priority matter for the health service.
Greater investment into medical care, and improving awareness and openness around the disease can hopefully lead to significant reductions in the number of men being affected.