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Over half of patients miss best prostate care

Men in many parts of the country are missing out on the best treatment for prostate cancer.  A recent audit of prostate cancer shows that 80% of hospitals treating those with prostate cancer do not have the most advanced radiotherapy, a quarter lack crucial scans and 50% do not offer help for common side-effects.

It has been suggested that men being treated in hospitals which do not offer the latest care should request referral to better equipped centres by their doctors.

Heather Payne, oncological lead on the audit says, “The aim of anyone working in prostate cancer is that quality of treatment 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.”

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK says, “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 the quality of life of those living with it, it is imperative that the recommendations made in today’s audit are heeded by commissioners and used to drive improvements without delay.”

The audit recommends that a multiparametic MRU scan (which helps pinpoint the nature and position of a tumour) be made more widely available to decrease the likelihood of unnecessary multiple biopsies.  Another area where there could be improvement is in the number of hospitals offering brachytherapy, where radioactive pellets are implanted directly into the tumour.  The benefit with this therapy for prostate cancer patients is that it treats the tumour with far less unpleasant side effects, such as impotence, that current treatment.

A further area in which treatment could be improved is in the providing of robotic surgery for patients – this is only available as a treatment option in 43% of English Hospitals and 20% of Welsh ones.  The audit suggests that robotic surgery should be centralised in places which do the most operations.

The audit will now move on to its second stage of trying to find out exactly how men are being treated.  The aim is to expose any variations in survival and side effects.  The study will then go on to look at how GP’s test for prostate cancer.

A Department of Health Spokesman said, in response to the audit, “Thanks to our investments of £23 million in the Radiotherapy Innovation Fund, a significant and rising amount of radiotherapy procedures are being done by the more precise IMRT, well ahead of the recommended target.  This is leading to better outcomes for cancer patients and fewer side-effects.”

Melanie Lidstone-Land, Senior Associate at Swain & Co Solicitors LLP says, “It is concerning that there is so much variation between treatment standards for prostate cancer across the country.  It is clear that this needs to be changed so that all patients receive the same high level of care going forwards.  I hope that the implementations in the audit are swiftly implemented to lead to better outcomes for patients with prostate cancer.”

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