A charity is warning that up to 3,500 men could have undiagnosed prostate cancer after GP referrals almost halved during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Prostate Cancer Research UK says fewer people visiting GPs during lockdown through fear of catching the virus or putting greater pressure on the NHS may mean some men may now get too late a diagnosis to be cured.
The charity is calling on men at greater risk of getting prostate cancer to now visit their GP.
Orthapaedic surgeon Bill Ribbans was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago.
At 65, he had had annual PSA tests for a number of years, looking for any sign of cancer in the prostate.
Bill's cancer was caught early on, but he recognises he might not have been so lucky had he not had the test.
Professor Bill Ribbans said: "It's something I feel very strongly, even evangelical, about. Unfortunately more men die from prostate cancer than females die from breast cancer.
"I think men are not very forthcoming in wanting to talk about it. If you catch it early then the outcome is excellent and it's a disease that men do not need to die of."
The chances of surviving prostate cancer increase dramatically with early diagnosis.
But since the coronavirus hit, Prostate Cancer UK has reported a 40 per cent drop in GP referrals for the disease, putting men at risk of being diagnosed too late to be cured.
Laura James, from Prostate Cancer UK, said: "There could be as many as up to 3,500 men undiagnosed with a high risk cancer that don't know anything about it, so we're really concerned about that.
"That's why it's so important if you are worried or have concerns to speak to your GP."
The charity puts the drop in referrals down to people's fear of overwhelming the NHS during the covid outbreak and also the risk of catching the virus.
GP Paul Driscoll, who runs a practice in Felixstowe, says patients are starting to return, but far from pre-covid levels.
Dr Paul Driscoll said: "I think the concern out there that patients aren't contacting us is real, we're seeing less of our older patients coming in and it's in that group that they will present with symptoms that may be a sign of cancer.
"Just this week I've seen three patients with raised prostate blood tests who I've made the appropriate referrals for, so people are coming out of the woodwork now and I'd encourage them to see us."
All men over the age of 50 are entitled to a PSA test that detects prostate cancer.
Those who are of this age, have a family history of the disease, or are black, are considered to be in the higher risk category.
Kasra Saeb-Parsy, a consultant urologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, says advances in technology over the past 6 years mean treatment isn't as invasive as it used to be.
He said: "The majority of people who get diagnosed with prostate cancer, and if they get diagnosed early and in a non-aggressive form, would not need treatment.
"What we call an active surveillance, where we just monitor things, but if they do need to have treatment there are lots of options available.
"A diagnosis of cancer doesn't mean major surgery and most people would live with the diagnosis of cancer and die with it rather than die because of it."
Prostate Cancer UK is calling for men in the higher risk categories to see their GPs, acting now to prevent a diagnosis too late to be cured.