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Home » Health, Healthcare Policy, Prostate Cancer

Calling for a compulsory screening mechanism in UK

Submitted by on 30 Mar 2016 – 17:06

All cancers are required to be diagnosed sufficiently early if treatment should to be successful and prostate cancer appears to be the most difficult as patients often show no early symptoms. Gary Steele, M.B.E, Chairman, Leighton Hospital PCSG discusses the nature of current screening mechanism

gary_steeleProstate cancer is the most common cancer in men and is the biggest killer in men with cancer, second only to lung cancer. However, prostate cancer continues to have the lowest public awareness of all the major cancers in UK. The statistics surrounding this so called “silent-killer” are quite astounding.

In the UK, only 8% of eligible men are tested for prostate cancer compared to over 60% across the rest of Europe and 28% of men seen for the first time by an oncologist are unable to be treated as the cancer is diagnosed at advanced stages where there is no treatment. Moreover, nearly 80% of all men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t show any symptoms.

Furthermore, as the government generally recommends screening only men over 50 years of age, it is no wonder the diagnosis and mortality rates in the UK from this type of cancer is considerably more than others in the so called modern countries with over 42,000 diagnosed and some 12,000 dying every year from this disease.

A few years back, the Leighton Hospital Prostate Cancer Support Group joined forces with the Graham Fulford Trust and some other groups to arrange PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) blood testing for Early Detection Prostate Cancer in local and convenient locations. Over the years, we have tested some 50,000 men finding many cancers that could not have been found either due to men not visiting their GP’s or at instances where they have been refused to be tested or treated.

We use the normal method of the venous draw to extract a small sample of blood using experienced and qualified phlebotomists. Under the careful direction of our urologists, the samples are taken to The Doctors Laboratory, Salford/London where the blood sample results are analysed and sent to our urologists to be posted on to the patients using the traffic light signal system – green for good, amber for borderline, and red for abnormal with information regarding next steps. The Laboratory also provides a further test on those samples at 1.4 or over by using “free-to-total” which provides further accuracy to the outcome. All men who are tested and treated have been recorded, thereby providing us with the largest database in Europe regarding age, family history and PSA related results for prostate cancer providing statistics in assisting in diagnosing prostate cancer.


Currently, we work in association with the charity Medical Detection Dogs where we train dogs to “sniff-out” prostate cancer from urine samples taken from those men attending our testing events. Soon after, the blood and urine samples are laboratory compared using the Medical Detection Dogs based in Milton Keynes, which are able to provide second line screening for cancers that are currently very difficult to diagnose reliably, such as prostate cancer. We are quite excited with this innovative training, which is currently showing a 92% success rate in finding the comparison between abnormal samples and detecting prostate cancer in urine samples. These results are truly spectacular.

All cancers are required to be diagnosed sufficiently early if treatment should to be successful and prostate cancer appears to be the most difficult as patients often show no early symptoms. Therefore, we believe a compulsory “screening” programme should be considered which we are sure would reduce mortality rates in the UK and Europe.

We know screening for men for prostate cancer is a taboo issue in the UK, however, the recent screening trials completed across Europe showed a considerable and significant fall in mortality in some instances as much as 42%, therefore if screening was introduced in the UK some 5000 men’s lives could be saved annually.