Urgent referrals for urological cancers – including prostate cancer – dropped by half in during the Covid-19 pandemic in England, a leading men’s charity has warned.
Prostate Cancer UK estimates that 27,000 fewer patients have been sent to urological cancer specialists since UK lockdown began in March, based on NHS England figures.
This puts as many as 3,500 men with higher-risk cancers at risk of being diagnosed too late to be cured unless referrals go back up to pre-pandemic levels, it added.
Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane said that the Covid-19 crisis has made it ‘harder for men to visit their doctor’.
Although referral numbers have begun to improve after dropping by 60% in April, recovery has varied regionally – for example, London is still seeing 46% of referrals compared to 2019.
Ms Culhan continued: ‘Some areas have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, and it’s critical that men feel safe calling their GP.
‘Most GP surgeries offer phone and video consultations, and men need to be reassured that the hospitals their GP may refer them to will be safe and not put them at undue risk from Covid-19.’
The charity is encouraging all men at increased risk of prostate cancer to contact their GP to discuss taking a PSA blood test, which can indicate problems with their prostate.
Ms Culhane continued: ‘Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, so it’s important not to wait until you notice something’s wrong.
‘If men are at increased risk because they’re over 50, if they’re black, or if their dad or brother had it, they should call their GP to ask about the pros and cons of a PSA blood test.
‘We’re encouraging everyone to share our 30-second risk checker to help find these men that have missed out on a diagnosis.’