Cutting Time on Prostate Cancer

06/03/2018

Last week, NHS England announced plans to cut the diagnosis time for prostate cancer from six weeks to a matter of days. Our Senior Associate Kim Huggins explains more.

Prostate cancer is currently the most common cancer in men the UK, with more than 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year and around 11,000 deaths.

Coinciding with the news of NHS England’s new pilot scheme, was the headline-hitting disclosure by Stephen Fry of his own battle with prostate cancer. Currently undergoing treatment for the disease, he credited the early detection with preventing the spread of the disease.

What is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate gland is located between the penis and bladder, which produces a fluid that forms part of the body’s semen supply. The vast majority of prostate cancer cases arise in men over the age of 50, and most men with early prostate cancer do not have any signs/symptoms.

Symptoms tend to arise once the cancer has grown and places pressure on the urethra. When symptoms do arise they include:

  • The need to urinate more frequently, often during the night
  • Urinary urgency
  • Difficulty in starting urination
  • Straining or taking a long time while urinating
  • Weak urinary flow
  • A feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully

Signs that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.

How is Prostate Cancer diagnosed?

Although embarrassing, it is important that you seek immediate advice from your GP.

The GP should then:

  • Check for infection
  • Check your PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen)  
  • examine your prostate

If there is a significant chance of cancer or of the cancer spreading from the prostate to other parts of the body, further tests will usually be recommended.  It is the time for these further investigations that NHS England hopes to reduce.

Currently, diagnostic tools include an MRI scan and biopsy/biopsies. This often requires multiple hospital visits over a period of weeks, resulting in delays and a period of uncertainty and stress.

The NHS now plans to introduce a “one-stop” service that will be trialled in three London Hospitals which aims to complete all the necessary tests in one day.

The new service will enable men to have a highly detailed MRI scan, a mpMRI which provides higher quality imaging and access their results the same day. Because of the high-quality imaging, it is estimated that between 30-40% of patients will not need any further investigations. 

For those with a suspicious MRI, a biopsy will be undertaken and done so on the same day as the MRI, with the assistance of a 3D MRI scanner to target areas for taking tissue samples more accurately.

Will it make any difference?

As with any form of cancer, time is of the essence. It is, therefore, encouraging that steps are being taken to reduce the time to undertake diagnostic investigations. Only time will tell as to what difference a reduced diagnosis period will make on statistics. 

Of course, the new service will only be of benefit if men are willing to come forward with and seek medical advice in the first instance, and in turn, on the basis that GPs will appropriately refer patients on.    

More information on Prostate Cancer can be found here.

MORE INFORMATION 

If you or a loved one has been affected by prostate cancer and believe that diagnosis was either delayed or missed completely and wish to discuss your legal options in a safe environment, please contact our Medical Negligence Department – our team of expert solicitors will be able to assist and can offer free initial advice. Call on 01708 229444 or email us using our contact form.This article was written by Kim Huggins, Medical Negligence Solicitors at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of March 2018.

06/03/2018

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