MDU advises doctors on how to prevent a delayed diagnosis of prostate and testicular cancer

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has published guidance for doctors on how to avoid a delayed diagnosis in prostate and testicular cancer, to coincide with Movember.

Since 2003, the annual event has funded more than 1,250 men's health projects around the world.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, particularly those aged 75 to 79 years. According to Movember, 1 in 8 UK men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Testicular cancer is less common, accounting for about 1% of cancers that occur in men. However, testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young men in the UK.

In a study, the MDU received 106 cases over a two-year period relating to prostate and testicular cancer. 92% involved the MDU supporting GPs, with the other 8% being consultants.

According to the MDU, the three most common reasons for a subsequent complaint were:

  • A delayed referral
  • Problems arising from the continuity of care
  • A failure to appropriately follow up with a repeat test or examination

Dr Kathryn Leask, MDU medico-legal adviser, said:

"Diagnosis of prostate and testicular cancer is by no means straightforward as symptoms and signs can be difficult to distinguish from less serious illnesses. To minimise the risk of a delayed diagnosis, doctors can communicate next steps with the patient, keep accurate records and make prompt referrals.

"Unfortunately, despite the doctor's best intentions, things can sometimes go wrong. If this happens, you should be honest with the patient, explain was has happened and offer an apology."

Michelle Terry, chief executive of Movember said:

"Early detection is the key to successful treatment but with prostate cancer, in particular, often no symptoms are noticed until the disease is advanced, so it can be tricky to spot.

"Fears of COVID-19, or worries about bothering their GP at a time when NHS services are under tremendous pressure, has meant many men have not had conversations with their doctor about their prostate cancer risk. We are worried this could mean many men have their prostate cancer diagnosed too late - when it is more difficult to treat. We advise any man with any concerns to seek medical advice."

Read the MDU's guidance on delayed diagnosis in prostate and testicular cancer.

Find out more about Movember.

This page was correct at publication on 18/11/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.