Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance is collaborating with NHS partner and virtual hospital provider, Medefer, to pilot a service designed to offer a simple prostate test to eligible males across the region. By using a method called case finding, which is a search of GP records, the service aims to find males with risk factors for prostate cancer and aid the early diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The initial pilot project is being rolled out to 500 men across six GP practices within the Guildford East area of Surrey. It will then be offered to a further 12,000 men throughout the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance region. Diagnosing prostate cancer early means there is a much greater chance of being able to treat it successfully and this partnership will deliver a sustained case finding campaign to find and identify patents faster.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with one in eight being diagnosed with it during their lifetime and a risk of one in four for black men.[i] 78%[ii] of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will survive more than 10 years. Yet compared to some other cancers, almost 12,000 men still die from the disease every year in the UK.
Alongside general stigma faced by men around speaking out about their health, the COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant decrease in the number of referrals of men suspected of having prostate cancer within Surrey and Sussex.
Medefer and Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance will assess patients and detect potential prostate cancers earlier and faster, making it more treatable and increasing the range of treatment options. Working with GPs, they will identify patients at higher risk from GP records based on age, ethnicity, and family history. Patients will either be invited to participate via text message, or will be able to call a dedicated number to run through a simple questionnaire, which will determine whether a test is required.
Eligible patients will be invited for a simple blood test known as prostate specific antigen test (PSA) and a urine test at local community healthcare settings. Patients who have symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI) will be referred to their GP for possible treatment. For those who have a positive PSA test, further testing will be arranged, and they will be referred onto a urology suspected cancer pathway. By taking patients through this pathway and only referring them to their GP for UTI treatment, it is makes the pathway more streamlined ensuring patients with positive PSA tests are prioritised for clinic appointments to aid in early diagnosis.
Dr Alex Norman, Medical Director at Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance, says: “The challenge with early detection of prostate cancer is that it often has no symptoms in the beginning. Through the national Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme, men aged over 50 years have been able to request a free PSA test from their GP, but due to a general lack of awareness of this disease, and more recently the impact of the pandemic, men have been less likely to come forward about their health.”
“This highly innovative, non-invasive approach will help us identify those most at risk for prostate cancer. And for those men that have not come forward this will make it really easy for them to have a test. We are taking the test to them. As with any illness, catching it early means it is more likely to be cured.”
Primary Care Director at Medefer, Dr Ed Bosonnet, comments: “At Medefer, we are dedicated to working with the NHS to reduce the cancer backlog and improve patient care, so we are delighted to be partnering with the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance to shape and deliver this important service.”
In the near future, a mobile clinic will provide additional support in targeting men and providing PSA testing. The Alliance is working with Surrey-based charity The Prostate Project which is raising funds to provide the mobile unit to travel to targeted locations across Surrey and Sussex. A fundraising campaign to buy the mobile unit was launched in January 2022. Read about the fundraising campaign here.
[i] About Prostate cancer | Prostate Cancer UK. Available at: Prostate Cancer UK. Last accessed June 2022.
[ii] Prostate Cancer Statistics | Cancer Research UK. Available at Prostate cancer statistics | Cancer Research UK. Last accessed June 2022