Prostate cancer – UK charity finds 1 in 5 men are ‘lethally ignorant’ about the prostate

Be aware of prostate cancer

New research reveals that almost 1 in 5 men are dangerously unaware of the function of their prostate gland and the symptoms of prostate cancer, leading to thousands of needless deaths each year.

The most common male cancer, prostate cancer claims 11,000 lives a year and 40,000 men are diagnosed with the disease annually.

The survey carried out by Prostate Cancer UK found that 92% of men surveyed had “no idea” about the function of the prostate gland, 54% did not know where the gland is located in the body and 17% of respondents were unaware of it altogether.

In addition, 88% of men from higher risk groups were unaware of their increased risk – and a startling 11% of men from high-risk groups believed they were in a low-risk group.

Prostate cancer can have few symptoms in the early stages, and many men may be dismissing some of the signs -  such as increased urination - as a normal part of ageing.

Nationwide campaign

Prostate Cancer UK is launching a nationwide campaign urging men to stop ignoring their prostate with the aim of improving on life-saving earlier diagnosis rates.

Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, says ignoring your prostate can be “lethal”. She adds: "You can’t see it, you can’t feel it, and shockingly many men only realise they have a prostate when it starts to go wrong.

“As a country, we need to wake up and stop men dying needlessly. Ignoring prostate cancer won’t beat it – only fighting it will.”

Taboo subjects

Bar Nightlife Men Drinking

Prostate problems affect ejaculation and sexual function, urine frequency and flow and sometimes cause incontinence – all subjects that men tend not to discuss with their friends down the pub. Many men may be keeping their symptoms to themselves as a result of embarrassment, sometimes with lethal consequences.

What are the symptoms?

Prostate Cancer UK lists the following changes to look out for:

  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, including during the night
  • Difficulty starting to urinate
  • Feeling the need to strain when urinating or taking a long time to finish urinating
  • A weakened flow of urine
  • A sensation that you are not able to empty your bladder completely
  • Having to rush to the toilet, sometimes with leaking.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Pain when ejaculating
  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Erectile difficulties – although the most likely cause for this is heart problems or diabetes.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut, and is part of the male reproductive system. It is responsible for producing and also releasing the sperm-carrying fluid that is ejaculated during sexual activity and is situated below the bladder. The prostate normally increases in size with increased age, and common prostate problems include an enlarged prostate, prostatitis (infection or inflammation) and prostate cancer.

The good news is 1 in 3 men over the age of 50 have urinary symptoms, and the most likely cause is an enlarged prostate – but make sure you discuss any symptoms with your GP so that cancer can be ruled out.

What’s the risk?

In the UK, 1 in 8 men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Black men are twice as likely to develop it, and the over-50s and men who have a father or brother who has been diagnosed with the disease also have an increased risk. The risk also increases with advancing age, and men who have a sister or mother who has had breast cancer may also be more likely to develop cancer of the prostate.

Recent research from the World Cancer Research Fund also indicates that men who are overweight or obese may be more at risk of developing prostate cancer, and estimate that around 10% of cases of advanced prostate cancer may have been avoided if weight was kept within a healthy range.

For more information on prostate cancer risk, diagnosis, treatments and support, visit Prostate Cancer UK.

If you are worried about prostate cancer and would like advice from a specialist nurse over the telephone, via email or for an online live chat, visit Prostate Cancer UK’s support page.

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About the author

Georgie Fenn, writes most of our news articles and social media posts.