COVID-19 halves prostate cancer referrals

Referrals for urological cancers have halved during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting as many as 3500 men with higher-risk cancers at risk of being diagnosed too late to be cured, Prostate Cancer UK (PCUK) has warned.

Urgent referrals are at their lowest levels in 10 years, with 27 000 fewer patients referred than expected since the UK lockdown period began in March this year, it says.

Angela Culhane, Chief Executive at PCUK, says: ‘Earlier this year, we announced that prostate cancer had become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, thanks largely to a greater awareness of the disease in recent years. Detecting prostate cancer earlier helps save lives, but COVID-19 has made it harder for men to visit their doctor this year.’

PCUK is encouraging all men at increased risk of prostate cancer to contact their GP to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a PSA blood test, which can give them an indication of any problems with their prostate. This includes men over 50, particularly black men, and those with a family history of the disease. As most men do not experience any symptoms until the disease has spread and become incurable, it is critical that men with these risk factors take action.

Hampshire GP, Dr Richard Roope, says: ‘It is hugely concerning to see such a significant drop in urological referrals over the last few months. This could see potentially thousands of men with higher-risk disease miss out on the chance to have their prostate cancer diagnosed when it can still be cured.’

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