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Prostate cancer test up for discussion in new cancer pack

29 March 2016

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A new prostate cancer pack for GPs to discuss a test used to test for the disease has been issued by Public Health England.

The pack includes information for GPs and other healthcare professionals to talk about the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer with well men.

The UK National Screening Committee will not recommend a national screening programme until there is clear evidence that it offers more benefit than harm to the population as a whole.

In the UK 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and 11,000 of them die. The updated information will help well men and their GPs to decide whether to have the PSA test, said PHE.

However it does not apply to patients who are at high risk or men of any age who have symptoms of prostate cancer.

The PSA test can be done at a GP surgery and measures the amount of PSA in the blood. There is evidence that it could reduce the prostate cancer mortality rate by 21%.

It is the most common initial test for men worried they may have the illness, however 15% of cases are missed by the test, said PHE.

It may also falsely identify a possible risk of the illness, which may never cause symptoms.

PHE said the results can mean some men opt to have unnecessary treatments with side effects that can affect their daily life.

The guidance said GPs should not proactively raise the issue of PSA testing with asymptomatic men but the test is freely available to any well men over 50 who request it.

The release of the guidance coincided with charity Prostate Cancer UK’s issue of statements which it says represents consensus views from hundreds of health professionals who want to see the PSA test used more effectively for men without symptoms.

They want to see GPs exploring use of the PSA test as a “baseline” for concerned men in their 40s to work out their risk of getting prostate cancer later in life.

The consensus also recommends if an asymptomatic man is clearly likely to live less than ten more years his GP or practice nurse should advise against having a PSA test.