A report published by male cancer charity Orchid has revealed that 37% of prostate cancers are only being detected in advanced stages, with almost a quarter of these cases being diagnosed in A&E.

Orchid says that these revelations demonstrate “the worrying current and future trends in prostate cancer, associated with an ageing population”. They believe that in a decade’s time it will be the most prevalent cancer in the UK, and projected incidence rates are expected to rise by 12% by 2035.

How common is prostate cancer?

Around 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, making it the most common cancer amongst males. Figures published in 2015 show that more men are now dying of prostate cancer than women from breast cancer (around 11,000).

What did the report say?

The report, published in advance of Male Cancer Awareness Week (9-15 April), was developed in collaboration with NHS England and the National Prostate Cancer Audit, as well as other leading experts in prostate cancer research.

It highlighted the lack of a unified process for diagnostics, due to the doubt surrounding the effectiveness of PSA tests, which measure the amount of Prostate Specific Antigen in the blood. In fact, 42% of prostate cancer patients saw their GP twice before they were referred, according to the report. Furthermore, there were issues raised about the discrepancies in patient care, such as GPs lacking guidance and a shortage of nurses to provide support.

The Chief Executive of Orchid, Rebecca Porta, said: “we are facing a potential crisis in terms of diagnostics, treatment and patient care. Urgent action needs to be taken now if we are to be in a position to deliver world class outcomes for prostate cancer patients and their families in the future”.

However, the report did also point out that there have been some major advances in surgical treatments for latter-stage prostate cancer.

What is the prostate?

The prostate gland is located below the bladder and produces the fluid found in semen. Problems with the prostate usually occur in middle-aged men as the prostate enlarges which can disrupt the flow of urine in the urethra.

Prostate cancer is caused by DNA changes which affect cell production. These changes can cause cells to be overproduced, or to live for too long and mutate.

Who is most at risk?

Unlike other forms of cancer, there are relatively few risk factors associated with it. The only known factors are age and a history of the disease in the family. Males of Afro-Caribbean descent are also more likely to develop the condition than Caucasian males, but the reasons for this are unknown.

Prostate cancer may not cause any obvious symptoms until the cancer has swelled to a large enough degree that it puts pressure on the urethra, which is what causes urinary problems. At this stage, symptoms may include:

  • the need to urinate more frequently especially during the night,
  • weak or interrupted urine flow
  • or blood in the urine (this is much less common).

However, these symptoms can also be caused by benign prostate enlargement.

When should I see my doctor?

If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms or have any concerns about prostate cancer, you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to conduct tests or refer you to a specialist where required.

Presently, there is not a screening programme in place for prostate cancer in the UK; but this may change in the future as and when diagnostic tools become more advanced.