Oh boy! How men can fight male cancers

Like most clichés, there’s a good dollop of truth in the general assumption that when it comes to looking after their health or seeking medical advice, men don’t always ‘man up’!

Like most clichés, there’s a good dollop of truth in the general assumption that when it comes to looking after their health or seeking medical advice, men don’t always ‘man up’!

Having to get regular checks  for cervical screening or contraception may not be a barrel of laughs, but at least it means that as a woman you’re used to seeing the inside of your GP’s surgery, and it holds no hidden terrors. Men aren’t offered any routine cancer screening apart from bowel cancer screening from age 50, and this doesn’t involve seeing a doctor. They visit their GP less often than women and I see all too many who have adopted the ‘head in the sand’ approach.

This week the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is putting out a renewed funding call for research into male cancers, highlighting the battle against these conditions in their Everyman health campaign. According to ICR figures, the levels of both diagnosed prostate and testicular cancer have risen dramatically in recent years.

In the case of prostate cancer, this increasing incidence is largely due to a higher number of cases being diagnosed through the greater use of PSA tests and the influence of an ageing population. Although it’s generally considered an older man’s problem, with an average age at diagnosis of 74, over 1,000 men under the age of 55 are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Since 1975, the level of testicular cancer cases in the UK has more than doubled – although the reasons for this are not yet fully known.

There’s good news too however! Testicular cancer is now more than 95% curable if caught at an early enough stage. So what can men – and their loved ones – do to man up to cancer?

Spotting the signs – prostate cancer

Many of the symptoms associated are common in older men and, as this type of cancer is often slow growing, you may not spot some warning signs straightaway - but here’s what men should look out for when going to the toilet:

  • Poor stream - the flow of urine is weaker, and it takes longer to empty your bladder.
  • Dribbling -  a small amount of urine may trickle out soon after you finish at the toilet.
  • Frequency – you may pass urine more often than normal.
  • Urgency - you may have to get to the toilet quickly, but once you get there you may have:
  • Hesitancy -  the need to wait at the toilet for a while before urine starts to flow.
  • Poor emptying - you may have a feeling of not quite emptying your bladder.
  • Blood in your urine – this should always be checked out.

Of course most men who develop these symptoms are more likely to have a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate, rather than cancer. But either way, your only chance of getting your symptoms sorted is to get yourself checked out.

Get to know your testes

A man who’s in the habit of regularly examining his testes or testicles, will be going a long way to ward against this form of cancer, because he’s more likely to spot any abnormal lumps, swellings, and tender spots or notice any change in their size or weight.

Don’t hesitate to speak to or consult your GP, if you do find an abnormality, as your doctor will be able to advise if there’s a serious cause. Generally speaking, testicular cancer usually starts as a small, hard, painless lump on one testis. And do remember if you do find a lump or bump it’s more likely to be one of the following, which are all common and treatable:

  • Collections of fluid
  • Infection
  • Harmless cysts

Learn more about prostate cancer facts from the everyman campaign.

Many of the patients I see have been fretting for weeks over their symptoms, and often it takes no more than a couple of minutes to reassure them. Even if the worst happens, getting an early diagnosis can make all the difference in terms of long-term outcome. So if in doubt, check it out!

Dr Sarah is unable to provide medical advice or respond directly to questions concerning your health. If you have health concerns we recommend contacting your GP.