Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Danger of Prostate Cancer Understated by Testing Regime

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 14/04/2014

According to a new Cambridge study, up to 50% of men with prostate cancer are not being given the full facts about its dangers.

Seriousness Played Down

Despite the patients' respective conditions later proving to be very serious, results of a current testing system played down their severity, giving the men ill-founded hopes of recovery.

Researchers compared over 800 cancer sufferers prior to and following the surgical removal of their prostates. Of 415 individuals whose cancers were deemed slow-moving and limited to prostates, 209 had more aggressive conditions than earlier supposed.


The British Journal of Cancer report also states that in 33% of instances, biopsies failed to identify the advance of disease to other parts of the body.

Biopsies, normally undertaken when disease is first noted, are used to determine whether the cancer is either aggressive or slow-growing.

If the disease is found to be aggressive, known to doctors as 'tiger' cases, treatment is normally urgently required.

However, some 'pussycat' cases of slow-growing prostate cancer, sufferers of which can often lead normal lives for some time before treatment becomes necessary, are considered to need little more than close monitoring.

Most Common Cancer Among Men

It has been estimated that 10,000 die each year from prostate cancer. With diagnoses topping 40,000 annually, it is the cancer found most frequently in men.

Greg Shaw, Clinical Lecturer in Urology at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the author of the report, said:

"Our results show that the severity of up to half of men’s prostate cancers may be underestimated when relying on tests before they have surgery.

This highlights the urgent need for better tests to define how aggressive a prostate cancer is from the outset, building on diagnostic tests like MRI scans, and new biopsy techniques which help to more accurately define the extent of the prostate cancer."

Active surveillance Not Enough

Mr Shaw added that although "active surveillance" can be considered safe for some patients, almost one third will require radiotherapy or a surgical intervention within 5 years.


According to Dr Iain Frame of Prostate Cancer UK, precise diagnoses of prostate cancer remain among the greatest challenges facing today's physicians.

"The results of this study highlight yet again that existing tests cannot provide a precise picture of the aggressiveness of a man's cancer, often leaving men and their doctors to make difficult decisions about treatment without all the facts."

Tests must improve

Dr Frame added that until tests improved, it was vital that men had the chance to talk through with doctors the consequences of various treatments.

Prof Malcolm Mason, a prostate expert with Cancer Research UK, noted that the best current ways of determining the seriousness of prostate cancer are biopsies, PSA and MRI scans.


But as this study shows, they don't always get it right," Prof Mason said. "Despite the limitations that this study shows, all evidence so far points to active surveillance being safe provided men are carefully selected."

Prof Mason added that better methods of applying grades and stages of cancer were needed "so that no man has to unnecessarily undergo treatment, while at the same time making sure we detect and treat the cancers that really need it".

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