The number of referrals to prostate cancer has halved since the start of the lockdown, as thousands of men delayed visiting their GP.
According to an analysis of official NHS data by Prostate Cancer UK, a total of 27,000 fewer men were referred to a specialist with suspected cases compared to the same period last year.
Urgent GP referrals for prostate cancer have now fallen to their lowest level in a decade due to the devastating impact of Covid-19.
Experts say the delays mean that about 3,500 men with advanced prostate cancer have not yet been diagnosed, putting their lives in danger.
Early diagnosis dramatically increases survival rates, but it is now feared that the coronavirus could reverse years of advances in treatment and diagnosis of the deadly condition.
Prostate cancer became the most common cancer in the UK earlier this year, following an increase in the number of men tested.
The Daily Mail has campaigned for 20 years to raise awareness of prostate cancer to prevent thousands of men from dying needlessly after being too slow to report symptoms out of shame or fear.
Urgent GP referrals for prostate cancer have fallen to the lowest level in ten years (stock image)
The latest figures show that in the UK there are about 57,000 new cases of prostate cancer and 12,000 deaths each year.
But the number of men who were referred to a specialist after going to the doctor with symptoms dropped 49.5 percent during lockdown.
Prostate Cancer UK said 27,000 fewer than expected patients were referred to a specialist during the three-month period from April to June, including about 3,500 high-risk cancer.
Angela Culhane, Chief Executive of the charity, said: “ Detecting prostate cancer earlier helps save lives, but Covid-19 has made it harder for men to see their doctor this year – especially if they don’t feel unwell or have no symptoms. to have. As a result, we estimate that in England there may be 3,500 men with a higher risk of prostate cancer that has not yet been diagnosed.
If we don’t act now, we can face a future where thousands of men will be diagnosed late, when the cancer has progressed to an incurable stage.
“Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, so it’s important not to wait until you notice something is wrong.”
Prostate cancer often has no symptoms, but some men experience changes, including pain during urination.
The charity is calling on men to monitor their prostate cancer risk with a 30-second online test.
Those over the age of 50, black, or have a family history of prostate cancer are more at risk and are urged to discuss the pros and cons of a ‘PSA’ blood test with their primary care physician.
If this suggests they are at risk, patients will be referred to the hospital for further diagnostic tests, including an MRI scan or biopsy. They should be seen by a consultant within two weeks.
Ms Culhane added: ‘Some areas have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and it is critical that men feel safe to call their doctor. Most GP practices offer telephone and video meetings, and men need to be reassured that the hospitals their primary care physician refers them to will be safe and not put them at unnecessary risk from Covid-19. ‘
The NHS data shows that referrals for prostate cancer fell 60 percent in April, although they are now improving.
However, Prostate Cancer UK said there is still tremendous regional variation, with London seeing 46 percent fewer referrals compared to 2019.
Dr. Sarah Jarvis, a family doctor who supports the charity’s call for greater awareness, said: “ I am extremely concerned that the number of cancer assessments has fallen so much in recent months. There are many reasons for this – patients were understandably concerned about being referred to the hospital because of the risk of COVID-19, it was more difficult to get a personal appointment with the primary care physician, and GPs found it more difficult to get patients seen urgently.
“But an earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer significantly improves your long-term outcomes, which is why I support Prostate Cancer UK’s campaign to encourage men to have these vital conversations with their primary care physician. If you are over 50, are black, or have prostate cancer in your immediate family, you are at higher risk for prostate cancer, so it is even more important to talk to your doctor about your risk. ‘
The numbers follow expert warnings that delays in cancer diagnosis due to lockdown will cause thousands of additional deaths.
Hundreds of thousands of patients have delayed or canceled vital scans, tests, surgeries, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy during lockdown.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
How many people does it kill?
Prostate cancer first became a bigger cause of death than breast cancer, official statistics revealed last year.
More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are now killed by the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women who die of breast cancer.
It means that prostate cancer is only behind the lungs and intestines in terms of the number of people it kills in Britain. In the US, the disease kills 26,000 people every year.
Despite this, it receives less than half of breast cancer research funding – while treatments for the disease lag for at least a decade.
How fast does it develop?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for years that someone has it, the doctor said NHS.
If the cancer is in the early stages and is not causing symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be followed.
Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated at an early stage.
But when diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, it becomes terminal and treatment is all about relieving symptoms.
Thousands of men are delayed to diagnose because of the known side effects of the treatment, including erectile dysfunction.
Tests and treatment
Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate instruments just starting to emerge.
There is no nationwide prostate screening program because the tests have been too inaccurate for years.
Doctors have trouble distinguishing between aggressive and less severe tumors, making treatment decisions difficult.
Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test that gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.
But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result usually get a biopsy which is also not foolproof.
Scientists aren’t sure what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity, and lack of exercise are known risks.
Anyone with concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or drop by prostatecanceruk.org
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