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Research conducted by Prostate Cancer UK has revealed a worrying trend of at-risk men remaining unaware of the health dangers they face, as GPs continually fail to engage them in discussions about this sensitive issue.
More than 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK alone, and yet despite elevated risk factors amongst certain age ranges and population demographics, most men remain oblivious to the risks posed by a disease which claims more than 11,200 lives annually.
Some are more at risk of prostate cancer than others
On average 1 in 8 men will contract prostate cancer during their lifetime, and those with fathers or brothers who contracted the disease are 2.5 times more likely to be at-risk themselves. Black men are also twice as likely to contract the disease as other races. It’s thought that there are currently around 330,000 men living with prostate cancer in the UK, with the average age of diagnosis falling between 65 and 69.
The risk of cancer misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis
Prostate Cancer’s UK’s research focused on a sample of 1,901 adult British men, drawn from data collected by 402 GPs nationwide. It found that despite the fact that 91% of the GPs examined were well aware of the risks posed by a family history of prostate cancer, just 1 in 10 had initiated a conversation with at-risk patients on the subject. As a result, two thirds of patients with a family history of the disease were completely unaware of the heightened risk they face, prompting the charity’s Chief Executive Angela Culhane to release the following statement:
“There’s no denying that GPs in the UK today face tremendous pressure to start conversations with patients regarding an ever-growing list of medical conditions. We need men to feel empowered to take control of their own health, find out their family history and pro-actively ask their GP whether they need tests for the disease due to their risk of developing it… Too many men are walking around completely blind to the serious danger they could face. This must change.”
Part of the solution is greater initiative on the part of GPs, but men themselves must also feel confident in approaching the topic with their doctor. This is particularly important when they have a family history of prostate cancer, or if they are unaware as to whether this is the case. Prostate cancer can often be successfully treated if caught early enough, but the absence or ambiguity of initial symptoms can often lead to the disease going undiagnosed until it is too late. Failure to have a conversation about previous medical history or family medical history can increase the risk of prostate cancer misdiagnosis.
Where a misdiagnosis results from a GP failing to reasonably recognise symptoms of the disease; failing to act on information regarding medical history provided by the patient; or failing to refer to a specialist, there may be grounds for a cancer misdiagnosis claim to be made, with assistance from a medical negligence solicitor.
Comment from a medical negligence solicitor
“Firstly, it is notable that 9% of the GPs involved in the research did not fully appreciate the link between a family history of prostate cancer and an increased risk of a man developing the disease. If a GP lacks this understanding they may misdiagnose a patient that has the disease, with devastating effects for the patient’s prognosis.
“However, men must themselves take responsibility for their own health and actively investigate their family’s medical history to determine whether any male relatives have suffered from prostate cancer, or any other condition with genetic links for that matter. They can then take this information to their GP who can advise them accordingly.”
If you have presented to your GP with symptoms and are not satisfied with their investigations or conclusions, whether relating to what you think might be cancer or some other condition, you are within your rights to seek a second opinion. It is also acceptable, and indeed recommended, to question your GP on why they have reached one conclusion or diagnosis and not another. Such questioning can often either give you confidence that their assessment and opinion is accurate, or identify the need to seek a second opinion if not.