Despite it being one of the most common cancers, there is no prostate-related equivalent to regular mammograms that detect breast cancer. There is just a blood test that looks for levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to guide doctors and help monitor. Yet, these screens often miss some cancers and cannot distinguish between people with high PSA levels who need treatment and those who do not.
Prostate cancer can be slow growing and tends to affect people in old age. So despite being fatal for some, others can have it growing in their body without it knocking years off their life.
According to experts only one in 12 men over 55 years with high PSA levels needs treatment. The other 11 could have therapy, with harmful side effects, for a tumour that would not have caused them any problems. With advances in genetics and medical imaging, particularly MRI can come a greater understanding of who was born at greater risk.
Prof Peter Johnson, the national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said better treatments had improved survival from the disease, but a screening programme has proved difficult. “The reason it is tricky is because they [prostate cancers] tend to grow more slowly and creep up on you. He also warned the pandemic meant thousands of people who needed treatment had not even been diagnosed.