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Prostate Cancer

Health written question – answered on 4th October 2004.

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Photo of Professor Ross Cranston Professor Ross Cranston Labour, Dudley North

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what assessment he has made of the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme;

(2) what plans he has to raise public awareness of prostate cancer;

(3) what plans he has to raise awareness of prostate cancer among (a) general practitioners and (b) other health professionals;

(4) what progress has been made in tackling prostate cancer since 2000.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

Good progress has been made since the national health service prostate cancer programme was launched on 6 September 2000, setting out the Government's approach to improving prostate cancer services in England and Wales.

As part of the prostate cancer risk management programme (PCRMP), evidence-based primary care resource packs were sent to all general practitioners in England on 23 September 2002 to aid them in understanding prostate cancer and counselling men (who are worried about prostate cancer, ensuring the men make an informed choice about whether or not to have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.

The Cancer Research UK primary care education research group is now in the process of evaluating the use of the packs. This evaluation includes:

a national survey of 400 GPs to describe their current practice and attitudes regarding PSA testing for prostate cancer, as well as their views of the PCRMP resource pack. a population survey of 900 men aged 40–75 designed to look at the impact of the PCRMP patient information sheet on men's knowledge and attitudes regarding prostate cancer and the PSA test, their future intentions regarding having a PSA test, and what factors influence these intentions. a series of focus groups and interviews are being conducted with a sample of men from the population survey to gather more in-depth information on their views on PSA testing, and to explore how best to assist informed decision-making on this topic.

The evaluation is being jointly funded by the Department via national health service cancer screening programmes and Cancer Research UK and results are expected over the next year. The results of the evaluation will inform future revisions of the pack.

Other elements of the PCRMP include ensuring that a systematic and standardised follow-up pathway is available for individuals whose test result is above the PSA threshold and action to improve the quality of laboratory testing of PSA samples. Recommendations from the scientific reference group, which supports the PCRMP, were sent to all pathologists and urologists, along with a copy of the resource pack, in September 2002.

Other good progress has been made on prostate cancer. In 2003–04, the Department met its target of directly funding 4.2 million of research a year on prostate cancer. This is a twenty-fold increase compared with 1999–2000.

98.8 per cent., of patients with suspected urological cancers, including prostate, were seen for their first out-patient appointment within two weeks of urgent general practitioner referral between January and March 2004.

The cancer services collaborative is modernising cancer care, including prostate cancer, by reducing unnecessary delays in the system for patients throughout the cancer-journey.

There has been a 47 per cent., increase in the number of consultant urologists since 1997, from 343 to 503.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence published guidance on improving outcomes in urological cancers in September 2002.

In response to the launch of the prostate cancer charter for action, we have set up the prostate cancer advisory group (PCAG) to facilitate collaboration between the Department of Health, the voluntary sector, and patient and professional groups. The PCAG is taking forward work in four main areas:

Information for prostate cancer patients

Public awareness of prostate cancer

Improving treatment

A national prostate cancer website

Regarding public awareness, we want men to be aware of their bodies and know what their prostate gland does, and also what can go wrong with it. We need to raise awareness in a responsible way and not scare men into rushing to see their general practitioners when there may be nothing wrong with them. The public awareness working group of PCAG has been reviewing information for men about prostate cancer, along with assessing the evidence over public awareness interventions, and will be making recommendations on the way forward for men and the national health service in England shortly.

The Department is funding other work on the public awareness of prostate cancer—a Section 64 grant to the Prostate Cancer Charity to increase further information about prostate cancer; a Section 64 grant to the Prostate Cancer Charity to improve the awareness of the risks and symptoms of prostate cancer among men from African and Afro-Caribbean communities in Britain; and DIPEx—the Database of Individual Patient Experiences website on prostate cancer.

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