Prostate Cancer Referrals Drop By 28% As Charity Warns Of Over 8,600 ‘Missing Men’
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to around 8,000 (28%) fewer urgent prostate cancer referrals in the North East and Yorkshire according to latest statistics shared by Prostate Cancer UK.
This is part of a wider drop around 52,000 in urgent urological referrals across England, a plunge of 28%. As a result, it’s estimated that more than 8,600 fewer men started treatment for prostate cancer in England in 20202 than in the previous year, a reduction of almost one third.
8,000 fewer urgent prostate cancer referrals
This number is based on NHS England Cancer Waiting Times Data showing the number of patients referred with suspected urological cancers (excluding testicular) has decreased by 28% between April 2020 and January 2021, with around 7,500 fewer patients referred compared to the same time last year. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancer-waiting-times/
The leading men’s health charity warns that this number is set to grow if the drop in referrals is not reversed. Many of these ‘missing men’ could have life-threatening cancer, and unless they are found quickly, they risk being diagnosed too late to be cured.
NHS England data released this week showed that although referral rates were improving across the country towards the end of 2020, they dropped by a further 270 (10%) in January as the country dealt with a new wave of the pandemic. The overall decline in referrals has largely been attributed to fewer consultations between men and their GP during this time.
Unlike other cancers, early prostate cancer often has no symptoms, so as the UK approaches 12 months since the first lockdown, the charity is asking the public to share its 30-second risk checker to help men understand their risk of the disease and help to find the ‘missing men’ who should have started treatment this last year. Those most at risk are men over 50, black men over 45, and men with a family history of prostate cancer. Anyone experiencing symptoms, such as difficulty when urinating, should speak to a doctor to get checked.
Angela Culhane, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK said:
“Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, but until these missing men are found and referrals begin to rise, many more men could be diagnosed when it is too late for them to be cured.
“Detecting cancer earlier helps save lives, but sadly prostate cancer doesn’t have a screening programme, and most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms. That’s why we want men to be informed about their risk, which is higher if you are over 50, black or if your father or brother had the disease.
“You can find out more by taking our online risk checker, or speaking to your GP about your risk.”
The charity also warns that some regions have been affected more than others, with the North East, Midlands and London seeing a greater drop in referrals compared to other parts of the country.
Prof Peter Johnson, Clinical Director of the NHS Cancer Programme, said:
“It is often close family who encourage men to go to their GP surgery if they have concerns – and we know that fewer men have been seeing their GP during the pandemic.
“Prostate cancer, like all cancers, is easier to treat successfully if we can find it early. If men are worried it is important they get checked, and Prostate Cancer UK’s risk checker is a great way for men to find out more about their risk and what they can do if they’re concerned about prostate cancer.”
Andrew Richardson, 55 from Pontefract, West Yorkshire was diagnosed in September 2020 and had a positive experience of treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “I’d visited the doctor a couple of years previously, because I was over 50, feeling tired and wanted to check nothing was wrong. It turned out to be an enlarged prostate, but because my dad had prostate cancer, I was kept within the system and had regular check-ups. It was a good thing too, because I ended up being diagnosed with localised prostate cancer in September last year.
“Despite being diagnosed in the middle of the pandemic, I’ve had a really positive experience, and I hope everyone gets that. Going from blood test through to diagnosis, surgery and the all-clear within fourt months during this time of Covid is remarkable. I can’t thank my medical team enough.
“I was so grateful it was caught early, and I’ve been speaking to anyone my age who will listen to help raise awareness, so more men can be as lucky as me.”
Help Prostate Cancer UK find the missing men by sharing their easy-to-use 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