There’s a “worrying” variation in treatment and quality-of-life care provided to men diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to campaigners.
In response to a first-of-its-kind audit of prostate cancer services across England and Wales, Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, called for services to be improved “without delay”.
The National Prostate Cancer Audit, which issued its first report today, found four out of five hospitals in England offered the most advanced radiotherapy and only half provided the support services men may need to manage side-effects.
Prostate cancer affects around 40,000 men each year, resulting in 10,000 deaths, and the purpose of the audit will be to look at whether NHS services meet recommended standards.
Mr Sharp said: “This audit of treatment and care delivery in England and Wales, alongside research currently under way looking at how patients experience it, will for the first time help build up a clear picture of the situation – warts and all.
“Although there have been some improvements in access to the more sophisticated diagnosis and treatment techniques, the audit reveals a worryingly vast variation in availability of these options and that around half of men with prostate cancer do not receive all the support services they should.
“Such findings cannot be ignored. If we are to tackle this disease head on and improve quality of life of those living with it, it is imperative the the recommendations made in today’s audit are heeded by commissioners and used to drive improvement without delay.”
The report recommended that both diagnostic multiparametric MRI scans, currently only available in three-quarters of English hospitals and two-thirds of Welsh ones, and high-dose brachytherapy for advanced patients, only available in just 20% of centres in England, must be made “more widely available”.
“The availability of personal support services including cancer advisory centres, sexual function and continence advice, and psychological counselling should be improved,” the report added.
Dr Heather Payne, the oncological lead in the NPCA audit, also told the Times: “The aim of anyone working in prostate cancer is that the quality of care across the country is consistent and that every man has access to the best treatment. Advanced technologies aren’t available in all hospitals at the moment.”
Lauren Wiggins, deputy director of services at Prostate Cancer UK told HuffPost Lifestyle: “There are over 250,000 men living with or after prostate cancer in the UK today – many of whom will experience a number of devastating side effects as a result of their treatment, from incontinence problems to erectile dysfunction.
“The emotional impact of the disease can be just as devastating, sadly this is all too often overlooked. Whether it’s coming to terms with a diagnosis or adjusting to lifestyle changes following treatment, emotional support is crucial.
“We work with a number of organisations, thanks to funding from the Movember Foundation, including Relate councillors and Maggie’s Cancer Support centres to help more men overcome the emotional challenges of the disease.”
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Wiggins added that there still needs to be more done across the UK to ensure that all men have access to this kind of support.
“When facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, a man’s psychological wellbeing is just as important as his physical health. No man should be left feeling that this is something he has to deal with on his own,” she said.
The NPCA audit seeks to create a database of patient and clinical information and will continue for the next five years at least.
Professor Noel Clarke, NPCA urological clinical lead, added: “The National Prostate Cancer Audit will help us to monitor how men with this very serious condition are being treated.
“It will improve our current standards of care and facilitate the development of better means for diagnosis, treatment and support of patients and their families.”