1 in 5 men in Wales with prostate cancer diagnosed too late for a cure
Prostate Cancer UK warns that Wales is one of several UK regions being left behind in a cancer ‘postcode lottery’, as the latest data shows huge variation in the likelihood of patients being diagnosed after their cancer has spread beyond the prostate and become incurable.
In Wales, 1 in 5 (19%) men with prostate cancer are diagnosed with metastatic disease, compared to just 1 in 8 (12.5%) in London. i Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North-East and Yorkshire and the North-West and Midlands of England, are also shown to be badly affected. Overall, more than 500 (530) men are diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer every year in Wales.
The latest National Prostate Cancer Audit (NPCA) reports show significantly higher risk for men in more deprived areas being diagnosed too late for a cure.iii The reports also showed a dramatic 29% fall in the total number of men diagnosed in the first year of the pandemic, which could result in higher risk of metastatic diagnoses for years to come.
Wales is one of the worst-affected regions in the UK for late prostate cancer referrals and diagnosis. In Wales, 1 in every 5 men with the disease are diagnosed too late for a cure. In London, that figure is 1 in 8.
Prostate Cancer UK is calling for action to tackle these health inequalities – particularly in Wales and other badly-hit regions – by encouraging men across the country to use its 30-second online risk checker to help them understand their risk and what they can do about it.
Laura Kerby, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This postcode lottery for cancer diagnosis simply isn’t fair, and the picture in Wales is worrying. Every man should get an equal chance of a cure, which is only possible if his cancer is caught early.
“Unfortunately, early prostate cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why men need to be aware of their risk and should take our online risk checker to find out more. If you’re at higher risk – which includes all men over 50 – you’re entitled to a free PSA blood test from your GP. Because of their higher risk, we strongly recommend that Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should speak to their GP from the age of 45.”
Increasing awareness of prostate cancer risk and enabling more men to make an informed choice about whether to have a PSA test reduces the proportion of men diagnosed with metastatic disease. Prostate Cancer UK is working with the NHS to help tackle these inequalities and has called on GPs to proactively engage higher risk men about the PSA blood test. It is also supporting GPs in areas of high deprivation to send targeted messages to men at the highest risk, to share the risk checker and help them make an informed choice about testing. The charity is also raising awareness amongst Black men, who are at double the risk of prostate cancer and develop it at a younger age.
The news comes almost a year after it was reported that across the UK 14,000 fewer men were diagnosed because of the pandemic,vi leading Prostate Cancer UK and the NHS to launch a joint campaign to find those men who had not come forward. Recent NHS England estimates show that nearly 2,500 additional men were treated as a result of the campaign.
Laura Kerby continued: “At one point in the pandemic, prostate cancer made up a third of all missing cancer cases, so while it’s fantastic that some areas are beginning to find and treat these men, it’s equally worrying to see Wales and other areas lagging so far behind.
“There is still a long way to go to fully reverse the impact of the pandemic, and as these figures show our job isn’t done even then. That’s why we need a screening programme for prostate cancer, and we are committed to funding the research to make this a reality and save thousands of men’s lives.”
One in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. All men over 50 are entitled to a free PSA blood test from their GP. Black men or those with a family history of the disease are at higher risk and should speak to their GP from the age of 45.
Simon Gammon, a 59-year-old retired insurance claims investigator from Usk in Monmouthshire was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2017. Since then he has changed his outlook on life and is focused on spending time with his family and raising awareness of the disease.
Simon said: “When I was first told that I had prostate cancer I was shocked. The air felt as though it had been sucked out of the doctor’s office. It was horrible.
“Learning I had a terminal diagnosis was devastating, but since then I’ve completely changed my outlook on life. I just want to make the most of the time that I have and spend as much of it as I can making memories with my children. I am also very keen to raise awareness of prostate cancer and will openly talk about it. The more people that know about this disease, the better, because if it’s caught early, it’s much more treatable. But too many men in Wales are being diagnosed when it’s too late, so I’d encourage anyone who has any concerns at all to visit Prostate Cancer UK’s website and take their risk checker. It takes just 30 seconds, and it can be a life saver.”
Check your risk using Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker at prostatecanceruk.org/riskcheck
Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can also contact Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurses on weekdays on 0800 074 8383 or online at www.prostatecanceruk.org