Map reveals UK’s prostate cancer ‘postcode lottery’


Prostate cancer’s ‘postcode lottery’: Map reveals how a THIRD of men in parts of Britain are only diagnosed once disease has spread

  • Proportion of men diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer varies by region 
  • Data suggests men from deprived areas are at highest risk of later diagnosis 
  • Nearly 10,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with stage 4 each year in the UK 
  • Fewer men were diagnosed with the disease during the pandemic, charity warns

Thousands of men across the UK are being diagnosed with prostate cancer too late due to a ‘postcode lottery’ of care, a charity has warned.

Prostate Cancer UK said the proportion of patients diagnosed with the disease when it is too advanced to treat varies significantly depending on where they live.

In Scotland, more than a third of men are only diagnosed when the disease is classed as stage 4 – which means the cancer is metastatic and spread to another part of the body.  

Meanwhile the figure for London is much lower, at just 12.5 per cent.

Prostate Cancer UK said the proportion of patients diagnosed with the disease when it is too advanced to treat varies significantly depending on where they live. Rates are highest in Scotland, North East and Yorkshire and Northern Ireland 

‘Fit and active’ 55-year old surgeon diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer after ‘niggling injuries’ 

Gareth Jones, a 55-year-old surgeon from Glasgow, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in June 2021.

Mr Jones is now urging other men to be aware of their health and not miss out on an early diagnosis.

‘I’m a surgeon, and before I was diagnosed, I was really fit and healthy, but I kept getting these niggling injuries, like pains in my back that were starting to really affect me,’ he said.

‘Little did I know this was a sign my cancer had already spread to my bones. Being diagnosed was very, very difficult, but thankfully I started my treatment that same day so there were no delays.

‘I’m determined to live life to the full and I’m now back in the gym and am doing what I can to raise awareness.

‘I just don’t want this to happen to other men, and it can be avoided if more men know about prostate cancer and what to do about it.

‘That’s why I would tell anyone and everyone to share Prostate Cancer UK’s risk checker because we need to get the message out there and stop so many men in Scotland missing out on an early diagnosis.’

Mr Jones also uses his love of extreme fitness challenges to raise money, and has raised over £4,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.

Gareth Jones (pictured above), a 55-year-old surgeon from Glasgow, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in June 2021

Gareth Jones (pictured above), a 55-year-old surgeon from Glasgow, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in June 2021

The charity analysed various sets of data to find out the proportion of patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer – which in most cases is too advanced to cure.

After Scotland, the North East of England and Yorkshire had the most men diagnosed at this stage, at around 20 per cent, closely followed by Northern Ireland and Wales.

Nearly 18 per cent of men in the Midlands are diagnosed too late, 17.1 per cent in the North West and 16.8 per cent in the South West.

After London, the East and South East had the lowest percentage of men diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer.

The data suggests men from deprived areas are at highest risk of being diagnosed at a later stage of the disease, the charity added.

While the figures are largely taken from information gathered before the pandemic, the charity suggested that outcomes for men are not likely to have improved during the ensuing period when the health services across England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have been under significant pressure.

Every year nearly 10,000 men across the UK are diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer.

Laura Kerby, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: ‘This postcode lottery for cancer diagnosis simply isn’t fair, and the picture in Scotland is particularly shocking.

‘Every man should get an equal chance of a cure, which is only possible if his cancer is caught early.

‘Unfortunately, early prostate cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why men need to be aware of their risk and should take our online risk checker to find out more.

‘If you’re at higher risk – which includes all men over 50 – you’re entitled to a free PSA blood test from your GP.

‘Because of their higher risk, we strongly recommend that black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should speak to their GP from the age of 45.’

The charity has also raised concerns about fewer patients being diagnosed during the pandemic.

‘At one point in the pandemic, prostate cancer made up a third of all missing cancer cases, so it’s fantastic to see that we’re beginning to find and treat these men,’ Ms Kerby added.

‘However, there is still a long way to go to fully reverse the impact of the pandemic, and as these figures show our job isn’t done even then.

‘That’s why we need a screening programme for prostate cancer, and we are committed to funding the research to make this a reality and save thousands of men’s lives.’

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WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?

How many people does it kill? 

More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are killed by the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women dying of breast cancer.

It means prostate cancer is behind only lung and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain. 

In the US, the disease kills 26,000 men each year.

Despite this, it receives less than half the research funding of breast cancer and treatments for the disease are trailing at least a decade behind.

How many men are diagnosed annually?

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

How quickly does it develop? 

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS. 

If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of ‘watchful waiting’ or ‘active surveillance’ may be adopted. 

Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.

But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.

Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.

Tests and treatment

Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools only just beginning to emerge. 

There is no national prostate screening programme as for years the tests have been too inaccurate.

Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.

Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.

But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof. 

Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks. 

Anyone with any concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org

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