GPs receive new guidelines for prostate cancer risk management

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new edition of the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme (PCRMP) has been produced to help GPs give men clear and balanced information about testing for prostate cancer.

The second edition of the information pack is designed to assist GPs when responding to patient queries about prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.

PSA testing is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in a man's blood. The protein is often raised in men with prostate cancer, although it can also indicate a number of other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate.

GPs will receive a reference booklet and summary sheet, as well as information sheets for patients and copies of Cancer Research UK's 2008 Prostate CancerStats report.

Professor Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, revealed: "We have reviewed the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme pack to ensure all recent research and information is included.

"These updated materials will allow primary care practitioners to provide the latest advice to their patients, helping men to make an informed decision about whether or not to have a PSA test."

The test can help to identify prostate cancer in its early stages, but experts are not yet sure as to whether a national PSA-based screening programme would be advisable.

This is because around two thirds of men with a raised PSA level turn out not to have prostate cancer and the benefits of screening may be outweighed by the harms.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of the National Screening Committee, recently revealed that an independent academic analysis has been commissioned in order to determine whether existing advice on routine screening for prostate cancer should be updated in light of recent clinical trial data.

"In the meantime, we welcome the publication of an updated information pack from the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes to help men who are concerned about prostate cancer to make informed decisions," she said.

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician, said: "It is important that men over 50 feel able to discuss implications of having a PSA test with their doctor and can request a test easily. We welcome the update to the Prostate Risk Management Programme so that GPs and other health professionals are in the best position to give men the guidance they need.

"We are very pleased that the National Screening Committee is also going to review the evidence for and against PSA screening. For some men, detecting prostate cancer early can be life saving, while others may not require treatment for a long time and could be put at risk of unnecessary side effects by having treatment.

"Much of our research is aimed at distinguishing between these two situations so that in future we will be able to give men better personal advice."