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Stephen Fry praised for saving lives after raising awareness of prostate cancer

Cancer-suffering celebrities Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry credited with saving lives as more men go for prostate tests after hearing their story

  • The number of visits to the NHS's official advice page soared by 250 per cent
  • The rise comes from the Mail renewed its campaign earlier this year for funding
  • Head of the NHS pays tribute to the campaign to say it helped raise awareness

By Kate Pickles Health Reporter For The Daily Mail

Published: 21:04 EDT, 8 October 2018 | Updated: 04:22 EDT, 10 October 2018

Bill Turnbull, Stephen Fry and the Mail have been praised for encouraging thousands more men to get themselves checked out for prostate cancer.

Figures show the number of men being treated for urological cancer has risen by more than a third in a just a year thanks to greater public awareness.

Meanwhile the number of visits to the NHS's official advice page for prostate cancer also soared by 250 per cent to 70,000 in a month, following the extensive coverage.

The rise comes after the Mail renewed its campaign earlier this year for greater funding and for people to get themselves checked.

Bill Turnbull (left), Stephen Fry (right) and the Mail have been praised for encouraging thousands more men to get themselves checked out for prostate cancer

Stephen Fry celebrated his 61st birthday earlier this year and admitted on Twitter that he was 'happy to still be here'

Stephen Fry celebrated his 61st birthday earlier this year and admitted on Twitter that he was 'happy to still be here'

The number of visits to the NHS's official advice page soared by 250 per cent to 70,000

The number of visits to the NHS's official advice page soared by 250 per cent to 70,000

Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, paid tribute to the campaign to say it helped raise awareness along with the high-profile diagnoses of Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry.

Speaking at an NHS Providers conference, the chief executive of NHS England will announce a £10million boost to help the NHS deal with the increased demand.

He will say: 'A debt of gratitude is owed to Bill Turnbull and Stephen Fry for the work they have done to urge men to seek medical advice if they think something isn't right. The Daily Mail campaign also plays a welcome role and – alongside the Turnbull and Fry effect – could help save lives.'

Studies have found embarrassment over symptoms –which include needing to urinate more often and weak flow – are a leading barrier to treatment.

Yet latest figures show the NHS treated 14,479 patients for urological cancers between April and July this year, up nearly 4,000 cases – or 36 per cent – on the same period last year. Many others will have been checked out by GPs and found not to need further treatment.

The surge in referrals followed media coverage about the number of people dying as a result of prostate cancer overtaking deaths from breast cancer in February. Figures revealed the illness had become a bigger killer than breast cancer for the first time, responsible for 11,800 deaths annually, compared to 11,400.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is presented with a pair of stained-glass pants, which Ms Sturgeon designed for the  Prostate Cancer UK charity, on a General Election campaign 2017

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is presented with a pair of stained-glass pants, which Ms Sturgeon designed for the Prostate Cancer UK charity, on a General Election campaign 2017

The growing ageing population is the main driver behind the rise, with older men more likely to get the aggressive form of the disease.

Men are also traditionally less likely to get checked than women, often being too ashamed to tell doctors about sexual problems, which can be an early sign of prostate cancer.

In February, Fry, 61, urged 'men of a certain age' to get themselves tested in a video revealing that he had been diagnosed with the disease.

The TV presenter had his prostate removed early this year.

Former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull put his aches down to 'old age' before discovering incurable cancer had spread to his legs, hips, pelvis and ribs.

In April, the Prime Minister unveiled a five-year campaign to wage war on the disease, announcing £75million of spending to help spot it earlier.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are now working with trusts to help them manage additional demand and the £10million will form part of the support package.

WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?

How many people does it kill?

Prostate cancer became a bigger killer than breast cancer for the first time, official statistics revealed earlier this year.

More than 11,800 men a year – or one every 45 minutes – are now killed by the disease in Britain, compared with about 11,400 women dying of breast cancer.

It means prostate cancer is behind only lung and bowel in terms of how many people it kills in Britain. In the US, the disease kills 26,000 each year.

Despite this, it receives less than half the research funding of breast cancer – while treatments for the disease are trailing at least a decade behind.

How quickly does it develop?

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs someone has it for many years, according to the NHS.

If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of 'watchful waiting' or 'active surveillance' may be adopted.

Some patients can be cured if the disease is treated in the early stages.

But if it diagnosed at a later stage, when it has spread, then it becomes terminal and treatment revolves around relieving symptoms.

Thousands of men are put off seeking a diagnosis because of the known side effects from treatment, including erectile dysfunction.

Tests and treatment

Tests for prostate cancer are haphazard, with accurate tools only just beginning to emerge.

There is no national prostate screening programme as for years the tests have been too inaccurate.

Doctors struggle to distinguish between aggressive and less serious tumours, making it hard to decide on treatment.

Men over 50 are eligible for a ‘PSA’ blood test which gives doctors a rough idea of whether a patient is at risk.

But it is unreliable. Patients who get a positive result are usually given a biopsy which is also not foolproof.

Scientists are unsure as to what causes prostate cancer, but age, obesity and a lack of exercise are known risks.

Anyone with any concerns can speak to Prostate Cancer UK's specialist nurses on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org

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