Government pushed to introduce prostate cancer screening

Prostate cancer screening could soon be offered to all middle-aged men after studies show new techniques reduce the likelihood of overdiagnosis.

Experts have long argued that only a national screening program will significantly reduce deaths from the most common cancer in men.

To date, testing has been too unreliable to exceed the threshold, and the potential for unnecessary harm outweighs the benefit.

But a new analysis of advances in screening and biopsy techniques in studies involving more than 600,000 men has shown potential harm is reduced by two-thirds (67 percent).

Studies have shown that MRI scans can effectively detect tumors, while a new biopsy technique known as transperineally guided biopsies reduces the risk of infection

Studies have shown that MRI scans can effectively detect tumors, while a new biopsy technique known as transperineally guided biopsies reduces the risk of infection

Studies have shown that MRI scans can effectively detect tumors, while a new biopsy technique known as transperineally guided biopsies reduces the risk of infection

It comes as Britain’s National Screening Committee has announced it will review all the evidence supporting prostate screening, with a decision expected by the end of the year.

Charities welcomed the review, with estimates an NHS program – similar to the breast screening offered to women – could save thousands of lives each year.

dr Matthew Hobbs, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We have known for some time that testing more men reduces deaths from prostate cancer.

“But there were always concerns about how many men would be harmed to achieve this.

“However, our evidence shows that screening can now be much safer than previously thought.

“We are therefore very pleased that the committee will review the evidence again.

“It is important that they consider this study and the actual results from the real NHS data and we hope they will conclude that we have reduced the harm enough to be ready to start a prostate cancer screening programme start.”

So far, men mostly only find out that they have prostate cancer when they show symptoms such as frequent or difficult urination.

They can request a “PSA” blood test from their GP, which qualifies them over the age of 50, but that’s far from accurate — many aggressive cancers are missed, and too many cancers are discovered that wouldn’t cause problems if they were it would not have been recognized.

As a result, it was never considered accurate enough for a screening program.

However, studies have now found that MRI scans can effectively detect tumors, while a new biopsy technique known as transperineally guided biopsies reduces the risk of infection.

Prostate Cancer UK analyzed multiple clinical trials and current practice, as well as real-world data from 16 NHS Trusts in London and the South West.

When compared to screening study data using old methods, they found that the percentage of men who suffered harm during the diagnostic process fell from 13.39 percent to 4.37 percent.

The number of unnecessary biopsies fell from 9.46 percent to 3.44 percent and the number of men who developed sepsis halved from 0.1 to 0.5 percent, according to the results presented at the ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium were presented in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the number of men diagnosed with clinically insignificant cancer — meaning it’s unlikely to ever spread or do any real harm — fell 77 percent.

Ros Eeles, a professor of oncogenetics at the Institute for Cancer Research, said the data “supports the shift towards studying how prostate screening is done.”

She said: “It gives us a rationale for moving forward towards introducing a prostate screening program in the UK.

“The challenge is to find better markers that indicate the presence of an aggressive disease and to refine our use of genetic risk stratification to target new screening methods to those at highest risk.”

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in the UK after breast cancer and is responsible for around 12,000 deaths each year.

It is estimated that screening could reduce deaths by a fifth, but the current test is unreliable, leaving men with harm such as unnecessary or repeated biopsies that can lead to serious infections.


How many people does it kill?

More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – die from the disease in the UK, compared to around 11,400 women who die from breast cancer.

It means prostate cancer trails only lung and colon cancer when it comes to how many people it kills in the UK.

In the United States, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.

Even so, it receives less than half of breast cancer research funding, and treatment for the disease is at least a decade behind.

How many men are diagnosed annually?

More than 52,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK each year – more than 140 every day.

How fast is it developing?

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no sign of someone suffering from it for many years, according to the NHS.

If the cancer is early and not causing symptoms, a policy of “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” may be employed.

Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated at an early stage.

But if it is diagnosed later, when it has spread, it becomes fatal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.

Thousands of men are discouraged from getting a diagnosis because of the treatment’s known side effects, including erectile dysfunction.

testing and treatment

Testing for prostate cancer is arbitrary, and accurate tools are just beginning.

There is no national prostate screening program because the tests have been imprecise for years.

Doctors have trouble differentiating between aggressive and less severe tumors, making treatment decisions difficult.

Men over 50 are eligible for a PSA blood test, which gives doctors a rough idea if a patient is at risk.

But it’s unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given 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 visit

source Government pushed to introduce prostate cancer screening

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