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Prostate cancer testing: Is it clear?

Actor Colin McFarlane was on BBC breakfast recently revealing that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

The 61-year-old confirmed that he currently does not need any treatment as it had luckily been caught early. It was stated that there are usually no symptoms in early stages, where there is the best chance of curing the disease, but once back pain is felt then it may be that the cancer has started to spread which is often the point when men attend their GP.

The interview with Colin also covered the fact that men from ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of prostate cancer, calling for men to seek an annual PSA test if black and aged over 45, or white and aged over 50.

What are the tests and why are there concerns?

The area of concern surrounds the testing procedure and what men think will happen, and also GP investigations.

The main investigations undertaken at the GP practice are:

  • a urine test to rule out a urine infection
  • a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test
  • a digital rectal examination (DRE).

Hang-ups remain around undergoing a DRE, but a simple PSA blood test could well be the first step. 

Worryingly, Colin stated that from his own research since his diagnosis, some GPs were refusing to give men PSA tests possibly due to an outdated view that PSA is not a reliable indicator. However, the modern view is that the test, in tandem with an MRI, can lead to an accurate diagnosis, with the use of a biopsy to complete the three-step approach providing the most accurate investigation.

Why is testing important?

Prostate Cancer UK report that over 12,000 men die from prostate cancer each year, with almost 10,000 of those diagnosed too late for a cure

The charity's website also states that "1 in 4 Black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime", over "other men, who have a 1 in 8 chance of getting prostate cancer." So regular testing, even just a PSA blood test at your GP, could lead to an early diagnosis and a cure.

As a medical negligence lawyer, I too often see people living with late cancer diagnoses and I know how early diagnosis and treatment is key to beating the disease.

If you have any concerns, check out Prostate Cancer UK’s 30 second risk checker.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by cancer at our dedicated cancer claims section.