Early detection campaign

The Facts

Over 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. And nearly 11,000 die of it. According to Cancer Research, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with it is 1 in 8.

Clinicians are agreed that, with virtually all cancers, the earlier they are detected the better the treatment options and the greater the chance of a full recovery.

The Problem

There is no fool-proof system to determine whether or not you have prostate cancer.

At the moment, the PSA test is the best way to find out whether a man might have prostate cancer. However, there are some important points about the PSA test, prostate cancer and its diagnosis that you need to understand:

  • The PSA test is not a test of prostate cancer – it’s a test for abnormalities of the prostate gland. One of these may be cancer. About 75% of men with a PSA level higher than normal DON’T have prostate cancer, while about 20% of men with a normal PSA level DO have prostate cancer.
  • Where the PSA level is higher than normal, other factors need to be considered to help with the diagnosis. These include family cancer history, ethnicity, prostate size, and past PSA levels.
  • Prostate cancer is not always aggressive or life-threatening.
  • It can be hard to tell whether the condition is life-threatening or harmless. This can make treatment choices difficult for both the patient and the clinician.

And the absence of any clear-cut answers has meant that the medical community is divided over the value of the PSA test. We at Tackle believe strongly that early detection is vital. Read about our position on PSA Testing.

We recommend that all men over 50 should have a regular PSA Test and, for black men or men with a family history of the disease, this should be from the age of 45 - in consultation with their medical practitioner.

What's Being Done About It?

Because of the uncertainty about the PSA test, there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. However, the results of the ProtecT trial suggest we can safely adopt active surveillance, that screening need not necessarily lead to the harms of aggressive treatment, that finding prostate cancer early is a good thing - all of which support a move towards screening.

Instead, there is an "informed choice" programme called the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme. This programme is produced by the NHS with the aim of enabling GPs to give clear and balanced information to asymptomatic men (ie they have no symptoms of prostate cancer) who ask about PSA testing. Updated in March 2016, it recommends that GPs should not proactively raise the issue of PSA testing with asymptomatic men but notes that the PSA test is available free to any well man aged 50 and over who requests it. Read the two-page summary produced by the NHS.

What's Tackle Doing?

Of the over 10,000 men in the UK who die of prostate cancer every year, by far the greatest proportion were originally diagnosed with advanced (and therefore incurable) prostate cancer. However, we believe that, had these men had PSA tests in the previous years, it is probable that a great many of them could have had curative treatment. 

So, pending the arrival of a better test, we are encouraging men with no symptoms to have a regular PSA test in consultation with their medical practitioner.

Tackle has been active in this area for several years. Most recently, we have been working on the PSA Consensus with key parties from across the UK to inform the debate on PSA testing. We have also been following RISKMAN - Prostate Cancer Risk-based Screening Trial, which has, to date, been funded largely by donations from member groups.

The success of locally organised PSA Testing sessions has shown that a great deal can be done.