A fifth of men in at-risk age groups who ask their GP for a test used in the diagnosis of prostate cancer have their requests turned down, a survey has revealed.
Published: 8:00AM GMT 01 Mar 2010
Seven out of 10 men are unaware they even have the right to ask for a blood test, which for some could be a life saver.
Men from less affluent backgrounds were more likely to be uninformed about the test, the results showed.
They were three times less likely to request a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood reading than men from higher socio-economic groups.
John Neate, chief executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, which commissioned the poll, said: ''Our survey highlights the critical role GPs play in providing balanced information to men about the PSA test.
''It is completely unacceptable that so many men at risk of prostate cancer are unaware of their right to request a PSA test.
''We must move swiftly to a position of 'universal informed choice' where all men are made aware of their right to request a test and to be given clear information about its usefulness and limitations so they can decide whether having the test is right for them.
''We are working intensively on proposals for how this can best be achieved and plan to make these public over the coming months.''
PSA is a protein that can leak out of the prostate gland and tumour cells.
Its detection in the blood is usually the first step on the road to treatment for a patient with prostate cancer.
A man with an unusually high reading will have a biopsy sample of tissue removed to provide a definitive diagnosis.
However the PSA is not on its own an accurate indicator of cancer, leading many experts to oppose its use as a screening tool.
Mr Neate said: ''For many men, undergoing a PSA test could expose a slow growing cancer which may never cause a problem - even without treatment.
"At the same time, for men with an aggressive cancer, who have no symptoms of the disease, the test may be the only way the disease will be identified at a time when effective treatment can be offered.
''The decision on whether to have the PSA test must therefore be made by men themselves - based on unbiased advice about its pros and cons.''
The Prostate Cancer Charity will use this month - designated Prostate Cancer Awareness Month - to shine a spotlight on the disease.
For the survey, a random sample of 1,000 men aged 50 and over were interviewed across the UK.