New Year, Same Concerns – Encouraging Men to Get Checked for Prostate Cancer:
New NHS figures have revealed that the number of men having treatment for prostate cancer has increased by more than a quarter in England between 2021 to 2022. Having men treated is positive news; however, it is still the case that too many men are diagnosed later than they could have been through a lack or misunderstanding of their symptoms. It is, therefore, equally important that we encourage men to have regular, routine tests available on the NHS, as early diagnosis allows men to have a wider range of treatment options and a better chance of overall survival and higher quality of life.
In contrast to breast cancer, there is no formal screening program for prostate cancer among men in the United Kingdom. PSA tests (Prostate Specific Antigens) are free tests that are administered by a local doctor to detect potential risk of prostate cancer in men over 50, or those over 45 with a family history of prostate cancer, or who are of Black ethnicity.
However, many men are often unaware that these tests are available. Men should be encouraged to have PSA tests annually, as a matter of course, when they hit these criteria in order to create a baseline and monitor for any increases in levels. It should not be the case of waiting for signs to appear – as often – especially in the early stages of prostate cancer – men do not experience any symptoms, or brush them off as a factor of ‘getting older.’ Therefore, the longer men go without getting checked, the more they increase their risk of late diagnosis.
Now, with advancements being made in both diagnosis and treatment, long-term health outcomes for men with prostate cancer are looking more and more positive, with the ability to resume normal daily activities fairly quickly. By educating men about the options available and normalising the need to put their urological health first, we can begin to take the necessary steps to see improvements in diagnosis for those with prostate cancer.
Gentlemen who have had a first-hand experience of prostate cancer continue to encourage other men to get themselves checked, including Alan Kerr, a 65 year-old retired man from Stirlingshire:
“I’ve probably spoken to around 70 gentlemen in their mid-50s to mid-70s about having prostate cancer. Out of the 70 people that I’ve told to get their PSA checked only three, that I know of, have come back to me and done it. But those three have thanked me for mentioning it to them because they found out that they had a raised PSA, which they were unaware of beforehand, and one of them is even going for treatment.”
“One of the biggest issues is that a number of my friends that I have recommended to have a PSA test have gone to the GP and the GP either says they don’t offer PSA tests, or you have to have a reason for it. And yet every single person that I’ve talked to that has had prostate cancer has had zero symptoms. The PSA test should be offered as a standard test for men over the age of 50, similar to breast cancer screening for women. This is the biggest cancer problem for males in the UK and I just find it incredible that we don’t do that already.”
This New Year, let us make a new type of resolution. In addition to the traditional changes that people make at the beginning of the year; from stopping smoking, starting a gym membership or reducing alcohol intake, we should also prioritise men’s health. And, this is not just a message for men – but also for partners, children, family and friends – we all have a role to play in changing health outcomes by being aware and educated to support men on this journey.