Following the implementation of a new screening test for prostate cancer in the UK, the numbers of men diagnosed with the disease has risen to approximately 40,000 men a year; three times higher than in 1989. This rise in diagnoses has not been matched, however, by a rise in mortality, with numbers of men dying from prostate cancer remaining steady at 10,000 each year.
The increase in diagnoses is thanks to the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test which measures PSA levels to identify whether tumours are present. The test has been criticised for increasing numbers of false alarms as a high PSA level does not necessarily mean that a patient is suffering from cancer of the prostate. This can result in men being treated both invasively through surgery, as well as non-invasively, for a condition that would not have caused any problems.
Cancer Research UK have highlighted that the improved screening has led to a long-term decline in the numbers of deaths from prostate cancer and indeed, all men are now offered the test for free on the NHS. Mr Rick Popert, Consultant Urological Surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS hospitals in London, has written that despite the risk of ‘false positives’ men should be regularly request a PSA test from their GP as, if they have a high PSA level but are not found to have cancer they will be actively monitored to check for the cancer in the future.