Mason Barry Oakley explains why the Province of Derbyshire is offering prostate screenings in masonic halls – just one initiative being undertaken around the country to raise cancer awareness
Already the most common cancer among men, prostate cancer in the UK has now overtaken breast cancer in women in terms of mortality, with figures at the start of 2018 revealing nearly 12,000 deaths annually. Prostate cancer is now the third deadliest form of the disease behind lung and bowel cancers, and Prostate Cancer UK reports that by 2030 it could become the most common form of all diagnosed cancers.
In the latter half of 2017, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire launched a prostate-screening initiative for its 2,800-plus members. The programme required a team approach, relying upon the support of the Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent, which is led by MacMillan consultant urological surgeon Jyoti Shah together with a number of specialist nurses.
In Shah’s experience, most men tend to avoid prostate examinations in hospital or recognised clinical environments. So the surgeon decided to take the screening programme to more familiar surroundings for those being examined: masonic halls.
The approach proved highly successful, with the team visiting masonic halls in Burton-on-Trent, Long Eaton, Chesterfield and Buxton in 2017. The second phase of the screening programme commenced in May 2018, and, at the time of writing, 363 Derbyshire masons had been examined, with 14 diagnosed as having the disease.
As part of the screening process, blood samples are taken and evaluated in a lab to look for certain proteins, called prostate-specific antigens (PSAs), that are present in all men. Abnormally high levels of PSAs are an indicator that cancer may be present in the prostate gland, but apparently certain non-cancerous conditions can also raise PSA levels.
The initiative is part of a much wider health campaign called ‘Inspire Health: Fighting Prostate Cancer’ that founder Shah, assisted by MacMillan advanced nurse practitioner Sarah Minns and a team of nurses, has been spearheading throughout Derbyshire.
‘For those men who have been screened and diagnosed, the cancer has been detected in time for effective treatment to commence and has probably saved lives,’ says Shah. ‘Without screening, the cancer would go undetected and continue to develop, giving rise to a potentially negative, life-threatening outcome.
‘Screening programmes can create a positive ripple effect. The word gets spread, which encourages more to come forward for screening. And the more who come forward, the sooner we can detect any presence of the disease and create positive outcomes.’
In backing the project, Derbyshire Provincial Grand Charity Steward Michael Hitchcock says, ‘We have been only too willing to support financially from our Provincial charity fund what is a potentially life-saving initiative. And despite the fact that charges would not be asked for, we felt it only right that a donation should be made on behalf of the Province.’
Medical research surrounding prostate cancer continues in many centres of excellence throughout the world, particularly in the UK, with the aim of further perfecting screening, diagnosis and treatment.