After referral figures collapsed during the pandemic lockdowns, there has since been a record number of prostate cancer screenings according to NHS England.
Urgent referrals for urological cancers reached an all-time high in March this year, with 24,331 people checked in just one month, following a campaign launched by the NHS and the charity Prostate Cancer UK in February.
The two joined forces to deliver a six-week campaign from mid-February, urging men to use the charity’s online risk checker in a bid to reduce the shortfall in men starting prostate cancer treatment since the pandemic began.
The latest NHS figures show the campaign had an immediate impact, as urological cancer referrals in March increased by more than a fifth (23%) compared to the previous month and are up by almost one third (30%) compared with the same month last year.
Symptoms of prostate cancer often do not show up during early stages but men who have higher risk are encouraged to come forward for checks.
More than half a million people (550,000) checked their risk of developing the disease online during the six weeks of the campaign with men deemed high risk encouraged to visit their GP to get checked out.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The NHS in England has seen all-time high levels of referrals for urological cancers but we know there is more to do to catch cancers earlier, which is why we’re investing billions to expand diagnostic and treatment capacity to treat more people sooner, as part of the most ambitious recovery plan in NHS history.
“It can feel daunting confronting issues but talking about cancer can save lives, and it is so important that anyone at higher risk or who has concerns, follows the lead of people like Stephen Fry, Rod Stewart and Bill Turnbull, to get seen and treated as quickly as possible”.
Prostate cancer, one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, is very treatable if caught early, so it’s vitally important that these men are found quickly before their cancer spreads.
Research suggests treatment at stages 1 and 2 has a near 100% survival rate compared to around 50% at stage 4.
While most men with early prostate cancer won’t have any signs or symptoms of the disease, symptoms to be aware of include needing to pee more frequently, weak flow, and blood in your urine.
Through the NHS and charity campaign, men are encouraged to learn more about their risk via an online risk checker, which is higher in men over 50, black men and men whose father or brother had the disease.