Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a large decline in the number of men going to see their GP with the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.
According to Prostate Cancer UK, referrals have fallen by more than 52,000 in England since March 2020.
Dr Anant Sachdev, primary care lead for Thames Valley Cancer Alliance, said: “We normally see more patients than we have so far this year with signs and symptoms that would warrant a referral for further investigation of suspected prostate cancer.
"This is not a sign that the cancer has gone away, but more likely that men are not going to see their GP as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also because they may not have recognised the symptoms.”
Who is at risk of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer can affect men of any age. However, there are certain groups that are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer:
In the UK, one in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime and that ratio increases to one in four men of Afro-Caribbean or African descent. There is also an increased risk for men who have a direct family history of breast cancer through their mother or sister.
- Men aged 50 or older
- Men of African-Caribbean or African descent
- Men who have a family history of prostate cancer
- Men who are overweight
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer usually develops slowly and often symptoms do not appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the urethra. The most common symptoms of prostate include, but are not limited to:
- Needing to urinate more frequently, especially during the night
- Needing to rush to toilet
- Difficulty in starting or stopping urination
- Straining or taking a long time while urinating
- Weak flow
- Feeling your bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or blood in semen.
Some of the above symptoms may be thought of as normal aspects of growing older. However, it is vital that people do not ignore them.
What should you do if you have concerns?
If anyone you speak to is describing these symptoms, or knows someone who is experiencing them, they should contact their GP as soon as possible.
Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “Men may feel uneasy or embarrassed about this, but there is nothing more important than your health. Finding this disease early makes it much easier to treat and the decline in referrals, as for all types of cancer since the Covid-19 outbreak, is worrying.
“We also know there are groups, such as Afro-Caribbean or African men, who are at an increased risk. Don’t ignore any symptoms you may be having and encourage your loved ones to see their GP should they be concerned.”
Victor Koroma learned he had prostate cancer in 2017 after he went to a mass screening event organised by Reading Lions Club.
Victor helped promote the mass screening event and prostate cancer awareness among men in ethnic minority communities for many years, but did not initially present himself for testing.
Victor explains: “It could be for several reasons: I did not believe myself to be at risk; this was something that affected other men, not me; the procedure would be intrusive so I would save myself the embarrassment; traditionally men did not present themselves for treatment unless they were actually ill.
“I then presented myself for testing at the Reading Lions event. Two weeks later, I was alerted that I might have prostate cancer. I had felt I was in good health, but with some failings, which I dismissed as part of the ageing process. After three further tests and a biopsy, the diagnosis was confirmed and I started treatment on 1 August 2017. I had radical prostatectomy that would require on-going treatment to deal with the side effects.
“Since then, I have resolved to use every opportunity to alert my fellow men that they should present themselves for testing. My gain from this experience lies in being able to alert other men not to be presumptive when it comes to their health.
“Men! Brothers, please do not make the same mistake I made. Take every opportunity to present yourself for testing if you identify with the risk factors. Leaving it until it’s too late is not an option.”
Help and support is available
For more information visit the NHS website, Macmillan Cancer Support website and Cancer Research UK website.
You can also call Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurse team for free and confidential support on 0800 074 8383.
Prostate Cancer UK has a 30-second online risk-checker to allow men to find out more about their risk and what they can do about it.
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