IT IS the most common cancer among British men and around 34,000 are diagnosed with it every year.

Now Andrew Lloyd-Webber has become the latest high-profile celebrity to be told he has prostate cancer.

The 61-year-old composer was diagnosed with the disease in the past few weeks and it is understood he had a blood test followed by a biopsy. The cancer is said to be in its very early stages and Lord Lloyd-Webber is expected to make a full recovery.

He is currently undergoing treatment, which can either involve radiation therapy or removal of the entire prostate gland.

Prostate cancer accounts for a quarter of all cases of cancer in men and develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system.

Cancer Research says the majority of those diagnosed with the disease are over 50 and most men with low-grade, early prostate cancer live a long time after their diagnosis.

In recent years, prostate cancer has claimed famous figures such as Bob Monkhouse, Fred Dibnah, George Carmen and Sir Harry Secombe.

Others, including actor Robert De Niro and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, have successfully fought the disease.

Derek Hartley-Brown, chair of Dorset’s Prostate Cancer Awareness Association, was diagnosed with the disease when he was 64, after demanding a blood test from his doctor.

A healthy reading is between one and five, but Mr Hartley-Brown’s was 38.

He said: “I was a few steps from the graveyard.”

Now aged 82, Mr Hartley-Brown dedicates his time to helping men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, raising awareness and campaigning for the government to set up a screening programme.

He believes all men aged over 40 should go to their doctor for a PSA blood test.

“Please do have that simple blood test every year and keep a note of the date and reading,” he urged.

“If they catch it early and treat it you can live on.

“It kills so many men because they don’t have the test until it is too late.”

Poole Hospital’s consultant clinical oncologist Sue Brock said treatment for prostate cancer is effective.

They treat 260 prostate cancer patients with radiotherapy and 40 with brachytherapy every year.

Brachytherapy sees radioactive seeds placed directly into the prostate to issue radiotherapy.

Prostatectomies are also carried out in some circumstances and the Royal Bournemouth Hospital has recently starting using keyhole surgery for its treatment.

Mrs Brock said as men get older they do find themselves needing to urinate more, especially at night, but they put it down to their age rather than indicating there might be something wrong.

“There is much more awareness now among men,” she said.

“We have got many men coming through having PSAs because they have asked for them.

“This means we are catching it earlier and therefore the cure rates are getting better.”