A SHARP drop in urgent referrals in the region for urological cancers has prompted Prostate Cancer UK to issue a stark warning.

Figures shared by the charity today reveal urgent referrals dropped by 50.6 per cent in the North-East and Yorkshire compared to the same period last year.

This is likely to be because the Covid-19 pandemic made it harder for men to visit their doctor.

Although the picture is beginning to improve, referrals in June were still 33.9 per cent lower in the North East and Yorkshire than in 2019, putting men with higher-risk cancers at risk of being diagnosed too late to be cured unless referrals go back up to pre-pandemic levels.

Angela Culhane, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK said: “Earlier this year, we announced that prostate cancer had become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, thanks largely to a greater awareness of the disease in recent years.

“Detecting prostate cancer earlier helps save lives, but Covid-19 has made it harder for men to visit their doctor this year – especially if they don’t feel unwell or have no symptoms.

“As a result, we estimate there could be 3,500 men in England with a higher-risk prostate cancer which has not yet been diagnosed.

“If we don’t act now, we could face a future where thousands of men are diagnosed too late, when the cancer has advanced to a stage that cannot be cured.”

Sky Sports football pundit Jeff Stelling, from Hartlepool, is an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK and he urged men to get checked out if they had any concerns.

He said: “It’s shocking to see the statistics about the drop in GP referrals, so it’s imperative that more men go back to their GPs and speak about their risk of prostate cancer.

“I’ve met so many men and families affected by this awful disease, some with stories of despair and heartbreak, others that offer hope and inspiration.

“I wear my ‘Man of Men’ pin badge every week on Soccer Saturday to represent everyone affected by prostate cancer, and to raise awareness of it.

“I’ve been in the research labs and seen the amazing work being done to help shape a future when men do not fear this most awful foe.

“And walked side by side with people across the UK who share that vision.”

He added: “But we still need to do more. So please know your risk and take action. It may save your life.”