We now know that prostate cancer is a bigger killer than breast cancer with the mortality rate for breast cancer falling steadily since the 90s whilst the number of men dying from prostate cancer has risen by more than 20 per cent over the same period.
One of the great challenges posed by prostate cancer is in developing a definitive non-invasive diagnostic procedure so that the disease can be identified early and suitable treatment started. Left undiagnosed and untreated prostate cancer can spread and become much more difficult to successfully treat. For a successful outcome it really needs to be caught while it is still in the prostate.
One of the pioneers spearheading revolutionary research into the diagnosis of prostate cancer is Professor Colin Cooper who is the Chair of Cancer Genetics at the University of East Anglia and whose research has been aided by £1,000,000 of funding from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Effective research into this insidious disease is vital to all brethren so what better example of how your donations are being used to bring about vital life-saving discoveries than this?
To continue to support this, and many other causes, the Masonic Charitable Foundation relies upon all Masons and especially in this period of Festival it is vital that we ‘get on board’ and make our own individual pledge of patronage. Although the Festival is now approaching its second anniversary of a four year duration it is not too late and brethren who have not already done so are urged to see their charity steward without delay.
So how exactly is the money donated by Masosn being used to help unlock the barriers to effective diagnosis and treatment of Prostate Cancer?
Professor Cooper and his team of researchers have successfully identified different forms of prostate cancer – classifications which did not previously exist – and can now begin to trial ground-breaking tests which will directly impact the lives of newly diagnosed men.
The vast majority of diagnosed prostate cancers are comparatively harmless and the £1,00.000 of funding from the MCF will help to develop a test to distinguish between these harmless (ie non-aggressive) and aggressive prostate cancers, meaning treatment can be targeted to the men who actually need it.
A lot is heard about the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test which tests for prostate protein in the blood. Indeed, the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity funded such testing for brethren at both Provincial Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Chapter. At the moment it is the only readily available non-invasive test for prostate cancer but it must be remembered that PSA screening can detect harmless cancers as well as aggressive cancers. This is where the research being undertaken by Professor Cooper and his team can really make a difference.
If the cancer is unlikely to grow then treatment, such as surgery or radiotherapy, can do more harm than good. Similarly, if a man’s cancer mistakenly appears to be non-aggressive then he might be treated too late to avoid it spreading. Currently, too many men receive treatments and endure life-changing side effects for cancers that may never cause them harm. This is why it is vital to find better diagnostic tests that will transform the basis for earlier and more accurate diagnosis and in turn inform how best to treat the disease.
Professor Cooper says: “There have been many advances in treatment over the last decade such as hormone withdrawal therapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Importantly, once our research into aggressive and non-aggressive forms of prostate cancer has concluded and we have a secondary test for newly diagnosed men, doctors will be able to make a much better informed decision as to what treatment the patient needs. Fingers crossed this will be soon”.
The funding of this vital research into prostate cancer is, of course, just one example of the incredible work the Masonic Charitable Foundation does to relieve suffering in all walks of life.
This is what Masons pledged to support when they joined Freemasonry and what the current 2021 Festival is all about.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation brings together and overarches the four main Masonic charities, namely the Grand Charity, Samaritan Fund, Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys and so is at the very heart of Masonic relief providing support to Freemasons, their families and the wider community.
Freemasons can help to maintain this work by making a financial pledge to the West Lancashire 2021 MCF Festival now and thus qualify to wear the Festival Jewel with Pride.
Story by Peter Pemberton,