Postcode Lottery Blights Prostate Cancer

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Despite a gradual decline in mortality rates of men with prostate cancer over the past decade, survival still appears to be affected by a man's postcode, new research has revealed.

The figures, unveiled by The Prostate Cancer Charity, show a map of disparity across England - with twice the rate of deaths in Sandwell than in Kensington and Chelsea.

The data on death rates from prostate cancer, averaged over a three-year period (2007-2009) and released to Parliament, reveals a two-fold variation between Primary Care Trusts.

Of the 151 PCTs in England, 24 have a mortality rate which is more than 10 per cent above the national average of 24 deaths per 100,000 of the population.

Owen Sharp, new Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "It is clearly unacceptable that men diagnosed with prostate cancer in different parts of England could live or die based on their address. What we really need to see now is a clear and credible answer to why, despite improvements in prostate cancer services, this remains the case.

"Although prostate cancer care has improved in recent years, these figures underline just how far we still have to go. Such unexplained differences in death rates from prostate cancer need to be addressed. Unless these are tackled, the Government will fail in its goal of delivering outcomes in cancer that are comparable with the best in Europe.

"Men in areas of higher mortality rates will want to be reassured that the NHS is doing all it can to improve local services, which includes providing men with accurate and balanced information about the disease and enabling them to get diagnosed as early as possible."

The Prostate Cancer Charity is launching a new campaign, 'Testing Choices', aimed at ensuring that all men at a higher risk of prostate cancer, including men over 50, those with a family history of the disease and African Caribbean men, better understand their right to balanced information and the support they need about whether or not to have a PSA blood test*.

The campaign, which will be officially launched at a parliamentary reception tomorrow (Wednesday 30 March) as part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, will engage politicians, local government officials, healthcare professionals and health providers in calling for the improved provision of accurate and balanced information - wherever they live in the country.

Owen Sharp added: "The PSA test is not perfect, but it remains the cornerstone of prostate cancer diagnosis. It is for each man who may be at risk of prostate cancer, to decide for himself whether or not having the test is right for him.

"With two thirds of men at risk of the disease unaware of the existence of the PSA test and the current Government information programme off the radar of two out of three GPs, men are facing a number of hurdles to exercising their right to balanced information and support about the test.

"National and local politicians and NHS officials must recognise the need for an improved programme that will help every at-risk man. This is why our new campaign, 'Testing Choices', is a much needed and practical campaign to ensure that no man is denied the opportunity to choose to take a test that might help diagnose prostate cancer and is given the support he needs to make that decision."

The Charity is driving this movement for change by piloting new ways of making sure this information reaches men. It will then campaign for the most successful programme to be put in place across the UK.