One in six prostate cancer patients at the University Hospitals of Bristol and Weston received their diagnosis late, recent analysis reveals.
Prostate Cancer Research has found many NHS trusts across the country lack key diagnostic techniques and treatments, meaning many people are only getting diagnosed when the disease has already spread.
Early diagnosis is crucial to survival as just a third of patients live for five years or more once the cancer spreads beyond the prostate.
Ahead of International Men’s Day on Sunday, charities have urged eligible men to seek free screening tests for the disease, which kills thousands in the UK each year.
The figures show 17% of people with prostate cancer were diagnosed at an advanced stage at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust in 2022 – the same as the average rate in England.
Analysis suggests more than 2,600 lives could be saved across the country if late diagnosis was cut to 5% – the lowest level achieved by a hospital trust – across the board.
There were also significant regional disparities, with 16 out of the 20 trusts with the highest rate of late diagnosis located in the north, while 13 of the 20 best performing ones were in the south.
Oliver Kemp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer Research, said: “We are seriously concerned that some parts of the UK don’t have the same level of equipment or testing capacity as others.
“This is now being borne out with a significant increase in late-stage cancers being diagnosed in these areas.
“Patients know all too well that these cancers come with much lower chances of living for five years or more.”
Diagnostics can include biopsies and different type of scans. Only zero out of nine were available at the University Hospitals of Bristol and Weston last year.
Patients at the trust had access to three out of nine treatment options, which can include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Overall, there were more options for both diagnostics and treatments in the south of England. Trusts there also offered more support services, such as psychological and genetic counselling.
Earlier this year Prostate Cancer UK warned 10,000 men are diagnosed too late for a cure each year. However, their analysis of the National Prostate Cancer Audit showed English regions had begun to tackle the pandemic backlog and referrals were above pre-pandemic levels in 2022.
Laura Kerby, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Unfortunately, early prostate cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why men need to be aware of their risk and should take our online risk checker to find out more.
“If you’re at higher risk – which includes all men over 50 – you're entitled to a free PSA blood test from your GP.
“Because of their higher risk, we strongly recommend that black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should speak to their GP from the age of 45.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The UK National Screening Committee is currently reviewing six prostate cancer screening proposals submitted during its annual call for topics.
“These include one on MRI scans as well as targeted proposals for men at higher risk due to factors such as ethnicity and family history. Recommendations will then be made on how best to take them forward.”