Prostate cancer on the rise but deaths remain steady

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.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
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A gland that surrounds the urethra near the bladder. It produces a fluid that forms part of the semen. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for prostate-specific antigen, an enzyme that is produced by the prostate. High levels are present in the blood when the prostate gland is enlarged or inflamed. Full medical glossary
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A way to identify people who may have a certain condition, among a group of people who may or may not seem to Full medical glossary
An abnormal swelling. Full medical glossary