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Prostate Cancer

Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

Through our national awareness and early diagnosis initiative, we are working to improve awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer, including prostate cancer, among the public and health care professionals in England. As part of this initiative, we are investing in a number of prostate cancer awareness campaigns.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware that of the 35,000 men who get prostate cancer each year, 10,000 are unlikely to live. Men are seen as being particularly loth to go to hospital or to the doctor with problems relating to intimate parts of the body. What does my hon. Friend intend to do to allay men’s fears and get them to go to their GP or to hospital, to ensure that 10,000 more people do not die next year?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We know that men tend to put off going to see their GP, which can result in devastating effects following later diagnosis and treatment. We are investing in schemes such as the Football Foundation’s Ahead of the Game campaign, which uses the appeal of football to raise awareness of prostate, lung and bowel cancers in men over 55. We are also working with a number of prostate cancer charities and patients to raise awareness of that cancer and to get the message out: “Don’t wait—check it out.”

Research carried out by the Prostate Cancer Charter for Action shows that, in at least 96 of England’s 529 constituencies, the death rate from prostate cancer is well above England’s average. Does the Minister accept that this reflects inequalities in NHS prostate cancer services? What is being done to remedy this?

We have done much to narrow the gap in relation to the inequality of cancer services. The introduction of the two-week maximum wait from GP referral to seeing a specialist and the recent announcement of a diagnostic result one week after being referred will also be extremely welcome. There are differences around the country, and it is difficult to give a definitive answer, but we have ensured that doctors are educated and supported to provide the right kind of understanding. As I have said, we are also working to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms, because the main thing is the need for men to present earlier.

My hon. Friend will be aware of how successful women have been in coming together to campaign on breast cancer. Indeed, I am wearing pink today to support that campaign. What does she think can be done to get more men to campaign on the important issue of prostate cancer, and to persuade them not to ignore it? She will be aware that my own father went to the doctor too late, and consequently died of the disease. Can we not get men to do more?

My hon. Friend has sad and poignant personal experience in this respect, and I thank her for sharing it with the House. Prostate cancer represents a different challenge for all of us, not least because the signs and symptoms are not always as clear as we might want. Research needs to be encouraged and supported to develop effective screening, which we do not have at the moment. We are, however, providing high-quality services tailored to the individual patient, and I am sure that men across the country will have heard my hon. Friend’s encouragement and will rally to take action, which I would certainly welcome.