Urgent referrals for urological cancers reached an all-time high in March this year, with almost 25,000 people (24,331) checked in just one month, following a campaign launched by the NHS and Prostate Cancer UK in February.
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, praised the campaign and said that the drive will have already helped to catch more cases of prostate cancer and that “talking about cancer helps the NHS to save more lives”.
The NHS teamed up with Prostate Cancer UK to deliver a six-week campaign from mid-February, urging men to use the charity’s online risk checker in a bid to reduce the shortfall in men starting prostate cancer treatment since the pandemic began.
The latest NHS figures show the campaign had an immediate impact as urological cancer referrals in March increased by more than a fifth (23%) compared to the previous month and are up by almost one third (30%) compared with the same month last year.
Symptoms of prostate cancer often do not show up during early stages but men who have higher risk are encouraged to come forward for checks. More than half a million people (550,000) checked their risk of developing the disease online during the six weeks of the campaign with men deemed high risk encouraged to visit their GP to get checked out. Health chiefs have doubled spending on cancer awareness campaigns since before the pandemic.
This high profile prostate campaign coincided with the launch of a new phase of the NHS’s ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign which focused on helping people overcome barriers like fear and anxiety that often delay or prevent them coming forward – with both running across TV, radio, print, social media and out-of-home advertising.
Amanda Pritchard commented: “Lives are being saved thanks to a record-breaking number of men taking the vital decision to get an NHS cancer check. The NHS in England has seen all-time high levels of referrals for urological cancers but we know there is more to do to catch cancers earlier, which is why we’re investing billions to expand diagnostic and treatment capacity to treat more people sooner, as part of the most ambitious recovery plan in NHS history.
“It can feel daunting confronting issues but talking about cancer can save lives, and it is so important that anyone at higher risk or who has concerns, follows the lead of people like Stephen Fry, Rod Stewart and Bill Turnbull, to get seen and treated as quickly as possible.”
Research has shown that 56% of people say a cancer diagnosis is their biggest health fear with 42% of those surveyed saying they would ignore symptoms, look for answers online or wait until anything has changed before seeing a GP.
Prostate cancer, one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, is very treatable if caught early, so it’svital that these men are found quickly before their cancer spreads. Research suggests treatment at stages 1 and 2 has a near 100% survival rate compared to around 50% at stage 4.