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Prostate Cancer Awareness Month 2022 – why early detection can be the difference between life and death

Posted: 01/11/2022

Globally, 1.4 million men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Across the UK, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and more than 395,000 men are currently living with the disease. Over 52,000 men are diagnosed here annually, and 12,000 men will die. One in eight men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime.

November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, also known as ‘Movember’. The charity, Movember, was established to raise awareness of prostate cancer, its signs and symptoms, and to encourage men to see their doctors early. The overall objective is to increase the number of patients cured of their prostate cancer, and to reduce the number of prostate cancer related deaths.

Prostate cancer occurs when some of the cells in the prostate, the gland in the male body used to help make semen, reproduce more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumour. It is not always life threatening. In many cases, the tumour grows slowly and may never cause any life-threatening problems. However, some men develop a cancer that is more likely to spread and cause secondary tumours. Therefore, if a person exhibits signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, it is very important to find out whether the cancer is likely to be serious or not. If it is, the earlier the diagnosis, the more likely it is to be cured.

There is no national screening programme for prostate cancer, like, for example, there is for breast cancer. This makes early detection and diagnosis more difficult and relies upon men presenting to their doctors when signs and symptoms that could indicate prostate cancer become apparent.

On the Movember website, the very first objective listed is to help men understand and realise the signs, symptoms and risk factors of prostate cancer. Despite the disease being the most common cancer in men in the UK, awareness of signs and symptoms that might indicate cancer is still lacking across the population. Early detection is key and, as the Movember charity puts it, ‘the difference between early detection and late detection can be life and death’.

The signs and symptoms commonly associated with prostate cancer include:

  • a need to urinate frequently, especially at night;
  • difficulty starting urination or holding back urine;
  • weak or interrupted flow of urine;
  • painful or burning urination;
  • difficulty in having an erection;
  • painful ejaculation;
  • blood in urine or semen; and
  • frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.

The Movember charity encourages men aged 50 – even those without symptoms – to seek a PSA test from their GP. Black men, or men with a history of prostate cancer, have a higher risk of developing the disease. They are encouraged to see their GP when they are 45 years old.

Once prostate cancer is suspected, most commonly in the first instance by a GP (if, for example, a patient has a PSA level over four, or if the doctor has detected an abnormality on examination of the prostate), the patient will be referred urgently (to be seen within two weeks) to the urology department of the local NHS hospital. At the urology appointment, the patient is likely to undergo a further examination of the prostate and, if suspicions of a possible malignancy persist, the patient is likely to be referred for an MRI scan of their prostate.

That scan will give the doctors sufficient information to determine whether or not a cancer is present and, if so, the size and aggressiveness of the disease. If a patient is diagnosed with prostate cancer, they will then be advised on their options for treatment, which will be tailored to them depending on the nature of their cancer. They could be advised to watch and wait, if the cancer is small or not aggressive, or they may be offered treatments including surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Many patients who are diagnosed when their cancer is at an early stage will have a good outcome from treatment. However, as is the case with many cancers, the later the diagnosis, the worse the outcome tends to be.

Arran Macleod, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, comments: “Prostate cancer affects thousands of men in the UK every year. It is important that men reaching middle age are not afraid to pay attention to their bodies and seek medical advice from their doctor if it is appropriate to do so. Without a national screening programme for detection of prostate cancer, the only way that the number of prostate cancer related deaths will fall is from patient self-referral.

“Prostate cancer can have devastating consequences on men and their families and, sadly, things don’t always go right even when early medical help is sought. I am, sadly, instructed in a number of cases brought by the wife or children of their husband/father who feel aggrieved at delays in diagnosis and treatment, despite the deceased presenting to their doctor early. As a medical negligence solicitor this is, unfortunately, a frailty in the system that I see, and which occasionally undermines the good work of charities such as Movember.”

If you have any concerns that your prostate cancer has been diagnosed late, please do not hesitate to get in touch for some preliminary advice.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP