A report carried out by Orchid, a charity fighting male cancer, has found that out of the 47,000 men diagnosed with the disease each year, 37% are diagnosed late at stage 3 or 4.
The cancer more commonly affects men over the age of 50. Unfortunately there is no single symptom to indicate the presence of prostate cancer. Particularly as men get older they may suffer with similar symptoms to that of prostate cancer which aren’t necessarily caused by the disease, which often means that symptoms of the cancer are confused with signs of age and are overlooked. The report found that 42% of prostate cancer patients saw their GP with symptoms at least twice before being referred for investigations, and 6% were seen five or more times before referral. A urological surgeon, Professor Frank Chinegwundoh at Bart’s Health NHS Trust reports that “25% of cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed at an advanced stage.” In most cases the growth of prostate cancer is slow, and often shows very few symptoms, meaning it can go undetected for years. However when the cancer does progress more quickly it can spread to other parts of the body, which can make it incurable.
The number of diagnoses of prostate cancer, which kills 11,000 men each year, is on the rise. Chief executive of Orchid, Rebecca Porta says, “We are facing a potential crisis in terms of diagnostics, treatment and patient care. Urgent action needs to be taken now.” Professor Chinegwundoh advises “it is still vital that patients are diagnosed early to assess if they need treatment or not, as advanced prostate cancer is incurable.”
The report noted that renewed efforts are required to develop better testing methods and NHS England assures that “NHS England is working closely with leading clinical experts to bring the latest research on prostate cancer into practice. Targeted work is also being undertaken to ensure prostate cancer is diagnosed quickly and that everyone receives the best care wherever they live across the country.”
Ally Taft, Partner at the Medical Accident Group, says “it is all too often that we see delays in diagnoses, and the effect this has on individuals and their families can be life-changing. I have a lot of experience in dealing with cases where these types of errors occur, and work hard to establish exactly what help my clients’ require and ensure that the settlement we achieve provides the best possible life for them going forward.”
Ally is currently investigating a claim worth in excess of £1million; despite complaints of severe pain and difficulty walking there was a delay in referring the client for a scan. It was later found that his spinal cord was compressed by a tumour, likely to be a secondary cancer caused by prostate cancer, by which time surgery was no option, and the client has devastatingly been left with spinal damage and paraplegia.
Ally says “It is extremely important that the methods used to test for prostate cancer in the UK are improved. In the US just 8% of prostate cancers are diagnosed late, compared to 25% in the UK, which can be linked to greater public awareness and greater screening.”
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