New prostate cancer scan ‘could replace invasive exam and save lives’
Prostagram is found to be almost twice as effective at detection as standard blood test in trials.
Scientists say they have developed a prostate cancer scan accurate enough to potentially replace current invasive examination techniques and save thousands of lives each year.
Prostagram, developed by experts at Imperial College London, employs MRI scanning and is modelled on breast cancer screening, where women are routinely offered a mammogram scan every three years as part of a national programme.
A trial of 408 men found that Prostagram detected approximately twice as many clinically significant cancers as the standard PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test.
Previous MRI scans have had reliability issues but the Prostagram, which identified about 75% of aggressive prostate cancers in volunteers, is the first that is accurate enough to be considered for screening. The researchers say the trial results suggest the 15-minute scan could find an extra 40,000 cases of prostate cancer a year in the UK alone.
Prof Hashim Ahmed, senior author and chair of urology at Imperial College London, said: “Prostagram has the potential to form the basis of a fast, mobile national-screening programme for prostate cancer and could be a gamechanger. Prostagram also has the potential to detect more aggressive cancers earlier and pass over the many cancers which don’t need to be diagnosed. By finding these aggressive cancers at the earliest opportunity, men have the opportunity to be offered less invasive treatments with fewer side-effects.”
The number of prostate cancer deaths in the UK has overtaken the number of breast cancer deaths (approximately 12,000 compared with 11,000), with the national breast screening programme credited with saving an estimated 1,300 lives a year.
Last year, Prostate Cancer published research showing it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with 57,192 new cases in 2018.
PSA tests are not recommended for screening because they are unreliable and can yield false positive results, while digital rectal examinations (DREs) are invasive, which can put men off being tested, and also have issues with reliability.
A third of the men in the Prostagram trial were black, which is significant given their increased risk of prostate cancer. One in four black men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime compared with one in eight in the general UK population.
Dr David Eldred-Evans, another researcher and developer of the Prostagram, said: “Plans for a more extensive trial covering 20,000 men are well advanced and will proceed in the coming months subject to funding. If results from this study are similar or better than those revealed today, there is then a clear pathway to the widespread implementation of Prostagram into the general population.”
Funders of the research, which has been supported by Stephen Fry, include the Urology Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the BMA Foundation for Medical Research and the National Institute of Health Research Imperial Biomedical Research Centre.
LGBT homelessness: ‘I had to pretend to be straight’
For Sara, university was a ticket out of an abusive home.
Sara, who identifies as queer, says she was used to hiding her identity from her Muslim family and pretending to be straight when accessing services.
But her mental health worsened after spending holidays alone in empty student halls.
“I had a roof over my head but no-one else to talk to. My mental health got really bad and I ended up dropping out. I was going to be homeless so I ended up going back to my abusive household,” she says.
“It was difficult – I was rotting away in a corner of our tiny flat while trying to look for places [to live].”
Sara, now 21, came out as bisexual to one of her parents and confronted them about the abuse, but they refused to accept what she was saying.
She says she became suicidal before a charity, the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), helped her to find a room at a women’s shelter.
Sara’s story is not unusual, says the Trust, which supports young LGBTQ people at risk of homelessness.
The pandemic means many have been unable to leave “toxic environments”, says its director of services Lucy Bowyer.
“We’ve seen young people going back in the closet and feeling they have to go home, stay home and that they can’t express themselves. Then people trying to access support have found it not welcoming and that has re-traumatised them.”
Temporary housing options such as staying on a friend’s sofa were no longer available as people became nervous about mixing with those outside their bubble, she says.
Joe, in Manchester, also had to move back in with his family after facing money troubles during the pandemic.
But he ended up homeless after a family member started to taunt and hit him.
“He was using my gayness and throwing it at me,” Joe says.
His abuser paid the household bills, meaning other family members were reluctant to intervene.
Joe slept on the streets for two weeks before being helped to rent a flat by the charity.
More than six in 10 LGBTQ young people surveyed said they felt frightened or threatened by their family members before they became homeless, according to an AKT report, while more than half feared being evicted from the family home if they came out.
The report also claimed that six in 10 faced some form of discrimination or harassment while accessing services.
The research took place over six months to January and interviewed 161 LGBTQ people aged 16-25 who had experienced homelessness in the past five years.
Both Joe and Sara said they had faced barriers while accessing services that were linked to their sexuality, ranging from homophobia from landlords or other homeless people, to forms that didn’t list their sexuality.
“My default is putting on a straight persona when accessing help,” Sara says. “It is exhausting.”
A scheme was introduced at the start of the pandemic to bring all rough sleepers indoors in England.
“Everyone In” took more than 37,000 people off the streets by January 2021, the government says.
But the impact has been patchy. In some areas, more than 80% of those helped are in longer-term accommodation, while in others it is less than 15%.
Ms Bowyer said her clients’ experience of the scheme had been “really varied”.
“In London, one borough would help anybody who turned up, but in another borough, no-one would even answer our emails and our clients couldn’t get hold of them.”
The government says the Equalities Office is conducting research to help better understand LGBTQ people’s experiences of homelessness, the challenges they face, and to enable tailored support to be provided.
(Names have been changed)
From Bud to Blossom: Our Lesbian Journeys
During quarantine Nancy Allen wrote a book “From Bud to Blossom: Our Lesbian Journeys.” It is a compilation written by ten different women sharing their path of embarking on lesbian relationships.
Nancy Allen came out at age 72, and has just celebrated nine years together with her partner, Kelly Thomas.
The book is aimed at women curious about lesbian relationships.
We are hearing more about LGBTQ relationships and issues. With the approval of same-sex marriage, many people have become curious about what same-sex relationships are. They may just want to understand them better or they may be considering trying one out.
This book explores the lives of women who at first did not consider a same-sex relationship. Somewhere along the way they started to acknowledge their bisexual / lesbian tendencies. Now they are willing to share their stories for the purpose of revealing what a romantic relationship is like with a woman partner.