Prostate cancer: 'Early screening saves lives' says Yorkshire teacher as £42m trial announced
The project, the biggest of its kind in decades, will see hundreds of thousands of men invited to participate.
Ultimately, it could save thousands of lives through the use of screening tools such as MRI scans rather than blood tests.
Prostate cancer, which usually has no symptoms until quite late on, is the most common cancer in men in the UK causing 12,000 deaths each year. Crucially, screening could also spot the disease even when no symptoms are displayed.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said that while cancer survival rates continue to improve, "more must be done".
“Our hope is that this funding will help to save the lives of thousands more men through advanced screening methods that can catch prostate cancer as early as possible," she said.
And Laura Kerby, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said it’s the most common cancer that - until now - hasn't had a national screening programme.
“It’s about time that changed," she said. "This will finally give us the answers we need to develop a routine testing system and save thousands of men each year."
Men who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer due to their age and ethnicity will be the ones recruited to the trial through their GP practice, and invited to a screening visit.
Black men are particularly vulnerable to prostate cancer, with one in four affected - double the risk of other men. There is to be a particular focus on this for the trial.
Each day in the UK, an estimated 144 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer on average. Around 490,000 men are living with or after the disease.
Among them is Daniel Burkey, 58, from Ossett in West Yorkshire, who was diagnosed in 2021. Early screening saves lives, he said.
"I got my diagnosis in my 50s, and the doctor told me the horrible news that it can’t be cured," he said.
“It was an awful shock, and I still find it hard to accept that I’ll always have this disease, but I’m doing everything I can to control the cancer.
“Things could have been different if I’d been tested routinely and caught it early enough. If the UK gets prostate cancer screening, so many lives will be saved.
"Knowing that this trial is going to find a way to do that makes me optimistic for other men.”
The trial is due to start in Spring, with recruitment from next Autumn.The confirmation came alongside a raft of other moves to boost men's health as yesterday marked International Men’s Day.
The Government is to recruit its first ever Men's Health Ambassador, it announced, to raise awareness - and dispel taboos and myths – around certain conditions
The first Men's Health Task and Finish Group is also to be established, with behavioural scientists, health campaigners, experts and academics. The goal will be to identify ways of engaging with men about their health, and increasing uptake of the NHS Health Check.