By Xantha Leatham Deputy Science Editor
01:07 18 Nov 2023, updated 01:19 18 Nov 2023
- Around 300,000 men across the UK will be invited to participate in the trial
- Men aged 50 to 75 at higher risk due to age and ethnicity will be recruited
Thousands of lives could be saved thanks to a ‘landmark’ prostate cancer screening trial announced today.
In a major victory for a Mail campaign, health leaders have approved a first-of-its-kind scheme that could revolutionise detection of the deadly disease.
Around 300,000 men across the UK will be invited to participate in the trial, which will use MRI scans and other screening methods to detect a cancer that kills 12,000 men in Britain every year.
It is hoped these techniques will give more accurate results than the current blood tests, which can miss the cancer or wrongly suggest that it is present.
Men aged between 50 to 75 at higher risk of prostate cancer due to their age and ethnicity will be recruited by their GPs. Black men have double the risk of prostate cancer compared to other men, and will make up one in ten of those invited to participate.
More details on the pilot, called TRANSFORM, will to be released next spring, with recruitment likely to begin in the autumn.
At the moment, men who visit their GP with symptoms such as frequent or trouble urinating are given a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. But this is only around 55 per cent accurate, meaning thousands can be sent for a painful biopsy or other further tests unnecessarily.
READ MORE: New prostate cancer screening trial will save so many lives, writes Health Minister Andrew Stephenson
Due to the unreliability of the PSA test, there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK.
The Mail has fought for nearly 25 years to raise prostate cancer’s profile, arguing that it gets only a fraction of the attention of diseases such as breast cancer, and this year relaunched its End The Needless Prostate Deaths campaign.
There are around 52,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed across the UK every year – the equivalent of 142 every day – making it the most common cancer among men. While survival rates have tripled in the past 50 years, projections indicate that by 2040 the number of men diagnosed every year in the UK could reach 85,000.
The disease usually has no symptoms until the cancer has grown large and more difficult to treat.
Health leaders say screening could spot the disease even when no symptoms are present, which could allow for treatment before the cancer becomes more aggressive and spreads.
Early diagnosis is key to survival, with just a third of men living for five years or more once the cancer has spread outside the prostate.
Nick Jones, founder of the Soho House chain of private members’ clubs, spoke to the Mail in July of his mission to raise awareness of prostate cancer – and to get the NHS to offer routine scans to all men over 50.
He said: ‘Women have been brilliant at talking about breast cancer, and because they have campaigned so effectively, every woman over a certain age in Britain gets offered a mammogram.
‘But men over 50 don’t get any invitations from the NHS. Yet they need, just as urgently, to be aware of prostate cancer.’
The new £42 million screening pilot programme is backed by the Government through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Prostate Cancer UK.
Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: ‘Our hope is that this funding will help to save the lives of thousands more men through advanced screening methods that can catch prostate cancer as early as possible.’
Laura Kerby, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, added: ‘Twelve thousand die of prostate cancer each year and it’s the most common cancer that doesn’t have a national screening programme. It’s about time that changed. That’s why we’re launching our biggest and most ambitious trial ever. It will finally give us the answers we need to develop a routine testing system and save thousands of men each year.’
In another measure announced today, the Government will begin recruiting for the UK’s first Men’s Health Ambassador, who will be responsible for increasing awareness of certain conditions and health needs faced by men.
Sarah Carter is a health and wellness expert residing in the UK. With a background in healthcare, she offers evidence-based advice on fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being, promoting healthier living for readers.