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Prostate cancer referrals spiked after Bill Turnbull’s death

There has been a spike in prostate cancer referrals following the death of broadcaster Bill Turnbull last year highlighting “the power of awareness”, Prostate Cancer UK said.

The charity confirmed on Thursday that analysis of NHS data shows a record 25,000 patients were referred for suspected urological cancer in England in November 2022 – in which prostate cancer makes up the vast majority.

Turnbull died on August 31 2022 after a “challenging and committed fight against prostate cancer”.

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry had also been diagnosed with prostate cancer (Ian West/PA)

The 66-year-old presenter, who appeared on BBC Breakfast from 2001 until 2016, had been diagnosed with the disease in November 2017.

Laura Kerby, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This year, in honour of Bill’s incredible legacy, we’re asking people to ‘Broadcast it like Bill’ and raise awareness of the disease – encouraging as many men as possible to take our 30-second risk checker to learn if they’re at risk, and if so, what they can do about it.”

There were 20,732 referrals for suspected urological cancer in June this year, which marks a 21% increase on the same month in 2019.

In June 2023, there were 6,144 treatments for urological cancer which marks a 24% increase from before the pandemic.

Comedian and former QI host Stephen Fry also revealed his diagnosis around the same time as Turnbull said he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer in 2018.

This sparked what has been described as the “Turnbull/Fry effect” – a marked increase in referrals.

Fry has narrated a video for the campaign which urges people to share the charity’s 30-second online risk checker.

NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, Professor Peter Johnson, said: “It can feel overwhelming confronting worrying signs and symptoms, but talking about cancer can save lives – it is so important that anyone who has concerns follows the lead of people like Bill Turnbull, Stephen Fry and Rod Stewart and get checked without delay if they are worried.

“Knowing what is normal for you and getting checked if you have worrying symptoms is the best way you can help yourself.”

IT manager Nick Whight, 53, from Bromley, decided to book a GP appointment after hearing about Turnbull’s diagnosis on BBC Breakfast.

He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2018 and opted to have surgery the next year when his cancer began to grow more quickly. He has since been given the all-clear and now does all he can to raise awareness of the disease.

He said: “I’ve always been a BBC Breakfast viewer, so I was very familiar with Bill, and I was so shocked and saddened to hear about his late diagnosis. I’d never really had much idea about prostate cancer, but from listening to Bill talk about it, I decided I should speak to my GP to get checked.”

He added: “I often describe myself as one of Bill Turnbull’s ‘cohort’ of men and thanks to him I was diagnosed in time to make a full recovery from prostate cancer.

“I knew I wanted to give back, which is why I’m supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s latest campaign to raise awareness and honour Bill’s incredible legacy. I’ve also signed up to take part in Jeff Stelling’s Football March this September – I’d really wanted to take on a physical challenge and to help raise funds for the charity, so it was just perfect timing for me.

Wycombe Wanderers fans Alan Cecil and Peter Radford were also inspired by their own prostate cancer experiences and Turnbull to take on a sponsored walk.

Mr Cecil, 69, said: “Seeing Bill speak out about his diagnosis, gave me the confidence to do the same.

“I realised there was no shame or stigma attached and by me raising awareness of the need for early testing, other men could hopefully be as lucky as me.”

Turnbull was a fan of Wycombe Wanderers and in his memory the Jeff Stelling’s Football March will take place from Wembley to Wycombe, a distance of 26.2 miles, in September.

See prostatecanceruk.org/riskcheck for more information.