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Is Nationwide Prostate Cancer Screening on the Horizon?

As of this writing, it’s now thirty-eight months since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, twenty-eight months since I completed thirty-nine radiotherapy fractions, and six months since my three-year course of hormone therapy injections came to a close.

Last week I spoke to an oncologist about my case and learned the welcome news that my cancer still remains undetectable and has done so for almost eighteen months. My PSA currently stands at 0.03.

Side effects continue

All good news, though unfortunately despite not having had a hormone shot for nearly six months I’m still getting the side effects (hot flashes, lack of the libido), which I had hoped might be making their way out of the door about now. Unfortunately, I may have to put up with them for another year or so as the testosterone starts to make its sluggish way back into my system.

More on this topic

Prostate cancer feeds on testosterone, so as that happens my PSA level will likely rise. If it continues to do so, I could find myself back on treatment and once again riding on the whole unlovely merry-go-round.

Time chunks

One of the ways I deal with having cancer is to live my life in shortish chunks of time and not get too worried about the long-term future or what may be the lack of it. I’m now on no cancer drugs and will have no more treatment for at least six months, as of this writing, until I repeat the PSA test and again talk to the oncologist in August.

I plan to thoroughly enjoy the spring and summer and hopefully see some of the covid lockdown restrictions ease and some form of normality return to our lives. Can I dream of a summer holiday? Probably not.

Bowel cancer screening

Last week as of this writing, I was part of the UK’s bowel cancer screening program, which is offered to everyone between the ages of sixty and seventy-four.1 Every two years, they send you a kit, you dab a very small amount of your excrement on a little stick and send it back. They check to see whether there is any blood in the feces, and if there is further testing may be needed. My test came back negative with the words written in bold: No further tests are needed at this time.

In the UK, there are national screening programs for breast, cervical, and bowel cancer. These services save almost nine thousand lives each year.2 Currently there is no prostate cancer screening program in the UK, as what tests we have are deemed too unreliable and can show false positive results. This may be about to change.

Prostagram MRI scan

Scientists at Imperial College, London say they have come up with a fifteen-minute MRI scan, called a Prostagram, that could potentially be used as part of a nationwide screening program.3 The work they are doing builds on work already done on breast cancer screening.

Game-changer

Professor Hashim Ahmed at Imperial College said Prostagram could be a "game-changer" that helps detect aggressive cancers earlier and save thousands of lives each year.3 A Prostagram trial, in which 408 men took part, found that it detected almost twice as many cancers as blood tests.3 Plus, it is non-invasive.

Dr. David Eldred-Evans, also working on Prostagram, said there are plans for a trial involving 20,000 men to help researchers evaluate whether Prostagram could be used on a wider scale.3

Silent killer

Prostate cancer is now the most-commonly-diagnosed cancer in the UK, with more than fifty thousand new cases reported in a year, meaning more than a hundred men are diagnosed with this silent killer every day.4 Prostate Cancer UK estimates that a man dies from prostate cancer every 45 minutes.5

These shocking statistics need redressing, and the work being done at Imperial College, and elsewhere, could see a change in our diagnosis and treatment of this pernicious disease. It can’t come soon enough.

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