The Man Van, an innovative new outreach programme from the Royal Marsden, is offering appointments to the public in efforts to improve early diagnosis of prostate and other urological cancers.
The mobile health clinic will be based at Parkway Medical Centre in New Addington from today until Monday May 30, with men in the area invited to sign up for a free health check. A local GP surgery is also inviting all men over 50 registered at the practice to book an appointment via text.
The programme, developed by the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, RM Partners West London Cancer Alliance and The Institute of Cancer Research is aiming to improve healthcare access for men who are less likely to receive regular health checks, and are at risk of having cancer diagnosed late, when it is more difficult to treat.
It is focused on men of working age who often have worse prostate cancer outcomes than older men, particularly those in manual jobs who often struggle to access healthcare. Black men, who have roughly double the risk of developing prostate cancer and an increased risk of death once diagnosed, are also being encouraged to get checked.
With more than 50,000 cases each year, prostate cancer is the most common form of male cancer in the UK. It is also the third biggest cancer killer in the UK and in 20per cent of cases in England, men only seek medical help when their cancer is at an advanced stage and too late to cure.
The van is open to all men and anyone at risk of prostate cancer.
Since launching earlier this year, the Man Van has been visiting workplaces in partnership with Unite, the union, along with support groups and churches in Croydon, with appointments facilitated by these organisations.
The van has a built-in clinic space where, if appropriate, men are given PSA tests: a blood test to speed up the detection of prostate cancer, as well as tests for common health conditions, like diabetes and hypertension.
After each clinic, a Royal Marsden nurse will discuss the findings with those assessed and, with their consent, share this information with their GP. If necessary, men are referred to a specialist service by the van’s consultant for further investigations or treatment. If an increased risk of cancer is detected, The Royal Marsden will be offered as a referral option along with their local hospital.
The Man Van will also provide men with an opportunity to take part in clinical trials which aim to improve survival from prostate cancer, carried out by The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research.
This includes a study which aims to understand why some men, including black men, are at greater risk of prostate cancer, and develop new ways to improve diagnosis and treatment. “Understanding the genetics that influence risk of prostate cancer could improve the way we screen men for prostate cancer in future, and help more men get diagnosed and treated early,” a Royal Marsden spokesperson said. If successful, the approach could be rolled out more widely across the NHS.
Ernesto Montero, 50, was able to book an appointment in the Man Van through his employer, TGN Construction, when it visited the Ruskin Square construction site at East Croydon. Tests revealed Ernesto has high PSA levels, so he was referred to The Royal Marsden for further investigations, including a prostate biopsy.
“When I was offered the opportunity to have an appointment in the Man Van, it was a no-brainer. The van is so close to my work and booking an appointment was really easy – it was a perfect opportunity to have a health check. I live in north London and work long hours in Croydon so finding the time to book a GP appointment is hard. I also felt fine, so I didn’t think there was anything to worry about.
“The results revealed that my PSA levels are a bit high for my age, and I was referred to The Royal Marsden straight away for more blood and urine tests, along with an MRI scan and a biopsy. Fortunately, no cancer was found. For monitoring, I’ll go back to the hospital for another PSA test in six months and an MRI scan in a year.
“I would 100per cent encourage others to book an appointment in the Man Van if they have the chance.
“Men always use the excuse that they’re too busy, especially with work, to look after their health, but we really should take more care of ourselves.”
Professor Nick James, Professor of prostate and bladder cancer research at the Institute of Cancer Research and consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, said: “The earlier cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment, and speeding up cancer diagnosis can transform survival rates.
“Unfortunately, we know men often seek medical help for the disease and other serious conditions at a late stage.
“We’re bringing the Man Van straight to men at work and in the community so that we can boost early detection and treatment in men who might otherwise only see a doctor once their cancer has progressed. If the Man Van proves to be an effective model, we hope to see the approach rolled out more widely across the NHS.”
The new service has been backed by Streatham resident, actor David Harewood. “Far too often, men put their health on the backseat and delay sorting out problems. For some, it’s because they find their health hard to talk about or they don’t know what to look for, and others simply struggle to find the time.
“The Man Van is a great new initiative making it easier for men to access healthcare and speed up the diagnosis of prostate and other cancers. This is particularly important for black men, who have a far greater risk of developing prostate cancer, and groups who may struggle to access care.”
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