The 'Man Van', an innovative new outreach programme, has been launched today to provide free health checks for men and boost early diagnosis of prostate and other urological cancers.
The mobile health clinic will visit workplaces and churches in London, starting in Croydon, 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.
The programme, developed by the ICR, The Royal Marsden and RM Partners, will focus 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.
The project is led by Professor Nick James, Professor of Prostate and Bladder Cancer at the ICR.
With over 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 20% of cases in England men only seek medical help when their cancer is at an advanced stage and too late to cure.
The pilot programme will investigate whether this care model can improve diagnosis and survival of men in these high-risk groups. If successful, the approach could be rolled out more widely across the NHS.
The van is currently at a construction site in Croydon, where it is offering appointments to employees of the international construction company Lendlease, and there are plans for the van to eventually visit sites across West London. It is officially being launched at an event today during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
The van has a built-in clinic space where, if appropriate, men are given PSA tests, which is 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, also from the hospital, for further investigations or treatment. If an increased risk of cancer is potentially detected, The Royal Marsden will be offered as a referral option along with their local hospital.
The van is visiting workplaces in partnership with the British Trade union, Unite the Union, along with community organisations, such as support groups and churches in Croydon.
To find out about booking an appointment with the Man Van, please visit the Royal Marsden website.
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Access to cutting-edge clinical trials
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 ICR, one of the world's most influential cancer research organisations.
This includes the PROFILE 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.
Professor Nick James, Professor of Prostate and Bladder Cancer Research at the ICR 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.
"That's why we've developed the Man Van. The van offers a private and relaxed space where men can come and chat about their health, be supported by clinicians and receive simple but potentially life-saving tests. We're bringing the 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."
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'It was a perfect opportunity to have a health check'
Ernesto Montero, 50 from Finsbury Park, was able to book an appointment in the Man Van through his employer, TGN Construction, and is currently based at the Ruskin Square construction site in Croydon. Tests revealed Ernesto has high PSA levels, so he was referred to The Royal Marsden for further investigations, including a prostate biopsy. He said:
"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.
"During my appointment in the van, I had my PSA levels tested for the first time. My father had cancer, but it wasn't in his prostate, and I wasn't really aware of the test or any signs and symptoms of the disease. The Man Van staff were very helpful and made me feel comfortable and relaxed the whole way through.
"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 100% 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."