The good news comes from one of the UK’s leading experts, Professor Ros Eeles, from the Institute of Cancer Research. She said that advances in genetics and medical imaging could provide a lifeline for thousands of Britons. Around 50,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease each year, and nearly 12,000 die.
But despite prostate cancer being one of the most common cancers, there is no equivalent of the regular screening technology used to detect breast cancer.
Currently, there is a blood test that looks for levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
But it is controversial and the UK’s National Screening Committee does not recommend it.
These tests are instead used to guide doctors and help monitor tumours.
But prostate cancer is slow-growing and can be developing in the body for years.
Prof Eeles said only one in 12 men with high PSA levels and aged over 55 needed treatment.
The other 11 could have therapy, with harmful side effects, for a tumour that would not have caused them any problems.
That means spotting it is vital.
She told BBC Radio 4: “We really need to get better than that. In the breast screening programme, it’s three to one.”
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She believes the answer could lie in scanning the body.
She added: “With the advances in genetics and also imaging, particularly MRI, realistically we do need some more data, but we’re probably looking at getting close to a tailored screening programme in the next three to five years.”
“We might need to use all of them together, so we can find those who have significant disease.”
Prof Peter Johnson, the national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said previous efforts had proven difficult.
He said: “The reason it is tricky is because they [prostate cancers] tend to grow more slowly.
“The things which are slower, which creep up on you, often produce much less disturbance in the body so it is very important we keep looking and there is a lot of research in this area.”
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He also warned the pandemic meant thousands of people who needed treatment had not even been diagnosed.
According to Cancer Research UK, prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms.
That’s why it’s vital to spot it early.
It is very unusual to have symptoms to do with passing urine, but the following may indicate an enlargement of your prostate gland:
- Passing urine more often
- Difficulty passing urine – this includes a weaker flow, not emptying your bladder completely and straining when starting to empty your bladder
- Blood in your urine or semen