Men’s Health Week (9 to 13 June) offers a vital opportunity to raise awareness of the most common cancer affecting men. More than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK – that’s 129 every day. Over 11,000 men will die of the disease each year.
The disease affects one in eight men, and the risk is even higher for black men, of whom one in four will get the disease.
Other factors that increase the risk of prostate cancer are age and family history. Most cases develop in men aged 50 and older. Men who have a father or brother affected by prostate cancer face a higher risk. Recent research also suggests that obesity is another factor that increases risk. Prostate Cancer UK has a useful risk checker to help you check your risk.
Alf Turner, Chair of the Prostate Project, said: “Deaths from prostate cancer are a terrible waste because if this disease is detected early, survival rates are generally good. The problem is that prostate cancer can be difficult to detect because it is symptomless in the early stages.”
One of the tests available to check for prostate cancer is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in blood. Men aged 50 to 70, black men or men with a history of prostate cancer who are aged 45 and above, can ask their GP for a PSA blood test.
If test results indicate raised PSA levels, an MRI scan may be offered to find out if further tests are needed.
Alf said: “Men may feel anxious about asking their doctor for a PSA test and what might happen as a result, but as the disease is symptomless until it has spread outside of the prostate, it makes sense if you fall into any of the risk categories to get checked out.
“Screening is routinely carried out now for bowel cancer, cervical cancer, and breast cancer. Ideally, we would like to see prostate cancer screening rolled out in the same way.”
The reason why black men are twice as likely to get prostate cancer is still unknown but it is now the subject of a number of research studies, including one funded by The Prostate Project in collaboration with the University of Surrey.
The Prostate Project charity's newest patron is Les Spaine, a music promoter and manager who has worked with some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and David Bowie.
Les is determined to share his personal story with as many people as possible, with his key message focusing on the stark fact that black men face double the risk of developing prostate cancer as white men.
He said: “It was a chance telephone conversation with a friend that persuaded me to get a PSA test, and I count myself lucky to still be here thanks to this one call. I had no idea about prostate cancer or its prevalence among black men. I had the test, was diagnosed with cancer and quickly found myself in the very safe hands of the geniuses in the miracle factory that is the NHS.
“I was saved by a call from a mate, and I want to tell as many men as I can that the PSA is a simple blood test, forget all the tales about 'cold fingers', the science is moving on all the time.”
Les is currently working with the Prostate Project, on the development of a short animated video aimed at alerting black men to the increased risk of prostate cancer and to raise awareness of the disease at his concerts over the summer.
To help spread the awareness message about prostate cancer and the importance of testing, the Prostate Project has plans to launch a mobile PSA blood-testing clinic. The charity has launched a Get on Board Appeal to raise £200,000 to buy, kit out and run the mobile clinic. Working in partnership with the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance, the clinic will be head to areas where there are high risk groups and communities to spread the word and offer on the spot testing.