Referral to a prostate cancer specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to prostate cancer. 

Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral. With an urgent referral, you should see a specialist within 2 weeks. 

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

Your GP can do some tests to help them decide whether you need a referral. This includes:

  • a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test
  • an examination of your prostate gland to check for abnormal signs, such as lumpy or hard areas (digital rectal examination)

Depending on the results of these tests your GP might refer you to a specialist. 

UK referral guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England, an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time frame is not part of the waiting time targets for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.  

Ask your GP when you are likely to get an appointment

Urgent referral to a prostate cancer specialist

The referral guidelines vary slightly between the different UK nations. The following is a summary. Your GP will use these guidelines as well as their own experience and judgement.

Your doctor should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if your:

  • PSA level is higher than would be expected for someone of your age
  • prostate feels abnormal to your doctor after an examination

You usually see a urologist. This is a doctor who specialises in treating problems of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidney and prostate.

Remember, these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, and do not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer. But it is important to get them checked out by your specialist.

If you are at higher risk of prostate cancer

Speak to your GP if you think you are at higher risk of prostate cancer. For example, if you:

  • have a close relative, such as a brother or father, who has had prostate cancer
  • think you have inherited certain genes which can increase the risk of prostate cancer
  • are a black male

Your GP can request a PSA test. Or they can refer you to a genetics clinic.

If you're still worried

Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you might be able to decide together whether you should see a specialist.

Last reviewed: 
17 Mar 2022
Next review due: 
17 Mar 2025
  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015 (updated 2021)

  • Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer
    Scottish Government, January 2019 (updated 2020)

  • Prostate cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up
    C Parker and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2020. Vol 31, Issue 9. Pages 1119-1134

  • Prostate specific antigen testing: summary guidance for GPs
    Public Health England, Last accessed March 2022

  • Relative risk of prostate cancer for men with affected relatives: systematic review and meta-analysis
    D W Bruner and others
    International Journal of cancer, 2003. Vol 107, Issue 5. Pages 797-803

  • Cancer Risks Associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variants
    Li Shuai and others
    Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2022 (published online). Last accessed March 2022

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