Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Northern Ireland. But there are not enough services to support these men and too many are having to deal with life-changing side effects of treatment alone. So today we're launching our Quality Checklist in Northern Ireland. It's a gold standard setting out what men with prostate cancer should expect to receive. And we're launching support services to bridge the gap.
Over 7,500 men are currently living with the disease. Although survival rates are improving, the number of distressing and life-changing side-effects associated with prostate cancer still isn't being properly addressed.
A survey we carried out has shown that 76 per cent of men who’ve been treated for prostate cancer report experiencing erection problems, 69 per cent a loss of sexual desire, and 68 per cent urinary incontinence.
Currently in Northern Ireland there are few support services in place to help men affected by the side effects of prostate cancer treatment – particularly around incontinence and psychosexual issues (thoughts and feelings that may cause problems having sex). There are also less than half the number of Cancer Nurse Specialists (CNS) for men with prostate cancer than for women with breast cancer. This is despite evidence that access to a CNS can greatly improve a man’s ability to cope with his illness. And there are no services to help gay, bisexual and trans-women prostate cancer patients who can have specific, often un-met, needs.
Today we’re launching our Quality Checklist at the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont. We want all Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to work with us and with local Health & Social Care Trusts to implement the Quality Checklist for Northern Ireland. The Quality Checklist is our gold standard setting out what men with prostate cancer should expect to receive, wherever they live. Based on research among men and health professionals, we hope the Quality Checklist will help MLAs hold health commissioners to account and improve support services for men with prostate cancer.
Dr Sarah Cant, Director of Policy and Strategy at Prostate Cancer UK said: “There are critical gaps in prostate cancer support for men in Northern Ireland. They get a raw deal when it comes to getting them through the life changing side effects that can accompany treatment. The Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety has already said that improving access to rehabilitation and recovery services should be a priority, however progress for prostate cancer patients has been slow.
"As treatments improve, more men than ever will be living through the disease and that makes it even more urgent that the right structures are put in place to support them. Today we are calling on MLAs to back our Quality Checklist by working with their local Health and Social Care Trusts to provide top quality support for all men with prostate cancer. The time for action is now.”
Men in Northern Ireland are being let down and we can’t just stand by. We are in a position to deliver vital on-the-ground support as well.
Not an organisation to simply sit back and watch others do the work, we used the launch of the Quality Checklist at Stormont to announce we are launching our own initiatives to help bridge the gap in service provision, made possible with funding from the Movember Foundation.
These include psychosexual support and relationship counselling and social support groups for gay and bisexual men. We are also planning future funding for a physiotherapist post at Belfast City Hospital to focus on reducing the impact of continence problems following surgery to remove the prostate. This is on top of our well established free information materials, peer support forums, and a dedicated specialist nurse telephone line.
Prostate Cancer UK will work closely with a network of local organisations to implement the new on-the-ground services. Partners include Relate Northern Ireland, Men’s Action Network, and the Rainbow Project.
Dr Cant continued: “Men in Northern Ireland are being let down and we can’t just stand by. Prostate Cancer UK already has a history of funding world class research in Northern Ireland and now we are in a position to deliver vital on-the-ground support to men as well.
"By working with established partners, and drawing on their extensive local expertise, we can begin to address the lack of support services immediately and get on with improving lives. However, this is only the start of a solution; men deserve to see our efforts being backed by real commitment to the delivery of more permanent support services from the Executive, the DHSSPS, and HSC Trusts. Only then will we see lasting improvements across the country.”