A culture of unnecessary over-treatment in the NHS for men with low and medium grade prostate cancer is leaving them with erectile dysfunction and other side effects.
The claim by charity Prost8 comes following an all-party parliamentary review of NHS treatment, which found only one in ten men are offered minimally invasive treatments.
There are 52,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the UK every year and 12,000 deaths. One in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives.
But thousands are eligible for less invasive treatments such as “high-intensity focused ultrasound” (HIFU). The procedure could cure them without the drastic side effects of surgery – such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence – but they are not getting it.
Prost8 founder Paul Sayer, who beat prostate cancer, said up to 12,000 men a year are suffering unnecessary side-effects.
He said: “The all-party report clearly shows that the NHS has established a culture of over-treatment in prostate cancer care.
“The upshot is that men with low or intermediate grade prostate cancer are being offered surgery or radiotherapy, even when it’s not the best or safest option for them.
“To be blunt, many of these men are left with erectile dysfunction. Unless things change, every year 12,000 men in this country could be over-treated for prostate cancer.”
In May urgent referrals for men with the disease hit record levels after a nationwide campaign by Prostate Cancer UK and NHS. Over 24,000 men got checked out for the threat, which can be successfully treated if caught early.
The National Institute for Health and Care excellence recommends the use of non-invasive treatments where possible.
Currently, three hospitals offer HIFU treatment – UCLH in London, North Hants Hospital in Basingstoke and Charing Cross Hospital in London. Now Prost8 is trying to raise £3million to provide up to six HIFU therapy suites, giving better access to the one in eight men diagnosed.
Mr Sayer founded Prost8 after he sought an alternative to surgery and received successful minimally-invasive treatment himself in 2018.
He added: “It is the job of the NHS to provide the best options for patients, but sadly it’s falling to charities to provide the funds for these vital treatment options.
“Every day we are overwhelmed by calls from men desperately searching for less life-limiting options than traditional surgery.
“Less invasive treatments also mean quicker recovery, less hospital time, less cost at the point of delivery for the NHS and lower infection risks – not to mention fewer side effects.”
The all-party report warns patients are forced to travel long distances, in poor health, because there are too few specialist interventional oncology centres.
Conservative MP Anna Firth, patron of Prost8, added: “I am putting my full support behind the campaign after losing my own father to prostate cancer in 2020.”
Donations to raise the £3million needed to open six new prostate cancer suites can be made at prost8.org.uk/donate/