IRISHMEN who develop prostate cancer have one of the highest death rates from the disease in Europe, a forum in Dublin was told yesterday.
David Walsh, a consultant urologist in the Mater Hospital, warned it was essential the disease was diagnosed as early as possible.
"From my own experience in the Mater, and indeed that of my colleagues across the country, we know that it is extremely important to provide our patients with a rapid diagnosis.
"It is equally important to ensure they have all the right options given to them once that diagnosis is made."
He said that HSE-run rapid-access clinics were now helping men to have the cancer picked up and treated earlier.
This should lead to better survival rates and improved quality of life.
"One of the significant differences with prostate cancer is that in some circumstances, usually involving slow-growing tumours in older patients, active surveillance rather than early intervention or treatment may be recommended.
"Patients requiring treatment will have several options, including surgery, external beam radiotherapy or they may access the emerging technology of prostate brachytherapy, involving the implantation of radiotherapy seeds into the prostate area and usually involving only one treatment visit to a hospital," he said.
National Cancer Control Programme director Dr Susan O' Reilly said that four in 10 of the 2,583 men referred to HSE-run rapid-access clinics for prostate cancer were diagnosed with the disease last year.
She added: "Our diagnosis illustrates that we are now providing a good service, where GPs refer patients into the system which aims to ensure that men are provided with their diagnosis within a three to four week timeframe.
"For the majority of men who do not have cancer, that timeframe reduces the anxiety that longer waiting involves."