Author with incurable prostate cancer calls on government to introduce screening programme for men

British author Alex Wheatle has called on the government to introduce a prostate cancer screening programme for men like the one in place for breast cancer in women.

Mr Wheatle, 61, who was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer last year, said he was campaigning to raise awareness for black men in particular, who are more prone to the disease.

One in four black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime - double the number of other men, according to Prostate Cancer UK.

Speaking to Matt Barbet on Sky News, Mr Wheatle said: "When I heard that one in four statistic, that really scared me. So I thought: 'Something's got to be done about this.' There should be more awareness in the public.

"And so what I'm suggesting is that whoever assumes power in the next election, they actively go and seek out screening for black men in the way they do for women when it comes to breast cancer.

"I believe it would be very beneficial to black men - and all men - to have screening before the age of 45."

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All women from the age of 50 to 70 are invited for a breast cancer screening every three years as part of an NHS programme, but there is currently no such programme for prostate cancer despite the fact an estimated 12,000 lives a year are lost to the disease.

The NHS says this is because prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests are unreliable and can often show a false-positive result, or can miss some cases and show a false-negative result.

Research also suggests PSA tests for those without symptoms only leads to a small reduction in the number of men dying from prostate cancer.

While Mr Wheatle acknowledged there "may be some truth" in PSA's reported shortcomings, he said he believes it's "better to be screened and tested" than to "not do anything at all".

On 1 May it was announced methods of screening men for prostate cancer will be trialled from next year as part of a £42m project called Transform, which will include blood tests.

It is a move Prostate Cancer UK says has the potential to reduce deaths caused by the disease by 40%.

Mr Wheatle, who has written over a dozen books, said he was diagnosed "by accident" after going to hospital with a concern over his asthma condition.

His wife told the doctor he had been losing weight, which led them to run tests that found cancer in his bone marrow.

"I was totally unaware and totally taken aback by that," he said. "So I urge all men listening to this, especially black men, to get themselves checked out."

Speaking about his current condition, which is now advanced, Mr Wheatle said: "I'm taking my medication, I feel well, I'm still able to write, which is my love."