It has recently been announced that prostate cancer is now the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in Britain, having overtaken breast, lung and bowel cancer. This announcement has come a decade sooner than originally forecast, with earlier studies suggesting prostate cancer would not become as prevalent until 2030.
New data highlights that in 2018 there were 57,192 new cases of prostate cancer across the UK compared to 57,153 breast cancer cases, 48,054 lung cancer cases and 42,879 cases of bowel cancer. The surge in new prostate cancer cases may be due to the large awareness campaign that was run in 2018, backed by celebrity endorsement, which resulted in an increase in patient attendance and referrals.
It is important at this point to set out a reminder of the main symptoms that can indicate prostate cancer. These may include difficulty urinating, more frequent urinating, a feeling that the bladder has not emptied, dribbling urine after urinating, and a sudden need to urinate. It is hoped that men will continue to be vigilant and visit their GP if they develop any of these suspicious signs or symptoms.
In a previous article, the medical negligence team discussed how researchers recently developed a blood test that may be capable of identifying whether a man’s prostate cancer is likely to be aggressive or not. This will enable healthcare providers to identify those who require immediate treatment, as opposed to advising patients to ‘watch and wait’ to see if the cancer progresses, which has commonly been the advice in the past. That prostate cancer is now the most prevalent cancer in the UK simply reinforces the importance of developing tests to determine which patients are at risk of developing more aggressive cancer and require earlier treatment.
Unfortunately, coronavirus has caused major disruption to cancer care in the UK. It was reported that, in April 2020, the number of people being assessed by a cancer doctor following a referral had dropped by 60% compared to April 2019. There has also been a fall in the number of patients commencing treatment, falling by 20% compared to April 2019. In the context of the number of prostate cancer cases expected in the UK this year (as informed by the 2018 statistics), this is a significant drop in the number of patients being diagnosed and treated for their prostate cancer.
NHS England has launched numerous initiatives to keep cancer care running, including creating ‘Covid-free’ wings in hospitals and ‘chemo-buses’, which are used in some neighbourhoods to provide cancer treatment.
However, despite these initiatives, Cancer Research UK has estimated that due to coronavirus, there will be a backlog of more than two million people with potential prostate cancer waiting for screening across the UK.
One main concern amongst healthcare professionals is that people are at home suffering with symptoms, afraid to seek medical help. Another concern is that there may be many patients who, in light of the current circumstances, are not being diagnosed and therefore not being given the opportunity of early treatment for their cancer. As the medical negligence team knows from collective experience of working in this field, it is common that often, the later the diagnosis is made, the worse the prognosis - and delays in treatment may be the difference between a patient surviving their cancer or not. The practice understands that this is a significant concern of healthcare professionals and NHS England is urging people to come forward to seek advice and treatment if they have any suspicion of cancer.
If you are worried about any of the issues mentioned in this article, please do get in touch as a member of the team would be happy to discuss your concerns with you.