Cutting Time on Prostate Cancer

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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.

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Cancer - Could We Be Doing More?

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Over 300,000 people are diagnosed with cancer per year. Research shows that often diagnosis could have been made at an earlier stage. So, could we be doing more?

In many cases, a delay in cancer diagnosis is the result of doctors not acting upon symptoms patients are reporting or a misinterpretation of test results. 

A report conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support and Public Health England investigated various cancer types and their survival rates, including: bladder; female breast; colorectal; kidney, renal, pelvis and ureter; lung, trachea and bronchus; melanoma of skin; non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; ovary; prostate and uterine cancer.

It was revealed that 17,000 people survived for several years with 10 types of stage 4 cancer.

Whilst the people behind these advancements in cancer treatment and care should be applauded that survival rates have improved, the fact still lies that cancer survival rates in the UK lag behind those of other European countries. 

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Local Hospitals Accused of Cancer Neglect

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Concerns have been raised over the increasing number of serious cancer misdiagnosis incidents at local Queens and King George Hospitals in Romford.

Papers published last week by Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) state that over the past few months there has been “an increasing number of serious incidents coming through specifically related to missed or delayed diagnosis for cancer.”

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) responded to the report, saying it has been working closely with key partners to address the highlighted issues; however, the CCG was so concerned with what was revealed during the report that it has since raised the issue with NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The CCG’s report also stated that “there are also concerns that operations are being carried out without a full complement of staff, as staff are leaving the theatre to scrub for emergency operations.” These findings will worry residents of Essex who are no doubt concerned about the competency of their local hospitals.

These days many cancers are treatable; the earlier the cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Medical negligence in respect of misdiagnosis can occur in three ways:

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