Almost nine in ten men in Scotland at higher risk of prostate cancer are unaware of their increased vulnerability and are therefore not having the vital conversations with GPs that could save their lives, according to new research published today by Prostate Cancer UK.
It means that thousands of men may miss out on being diagnosed at an early stage when treatment for the disease is most effective.
Prostate cancer kills one man every hour. The majority of early cases are symptomless, and a lack of accurate tests for life-threatening forms of the disease means there is no national screening programme. As a result awareness of risk, and speaking to a health professional, is a man’s chief defence against the disease.
Alarmingly, the survey (i), conducted by YouGov, showed that almost nine in ten Scottish men (86%) at increased risk of prostate cancer are unaware that their chance of developing the disease is higher than average. 80% of these men at greater risk admit that, even if they had been aware but didn’t have any symptoms, they wouldn’t speak to their GP about it – a dangerous position to take for a largely symptomless disease.
Men at increased risk of prostate cancer include men with a family history of the disease in a father or brother, men over the age of 50 and black men.
Prostate Cancer UK launched its flagship Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign earlier this year in a move to engage men in the fight against their shared risk of prostate cancer. Prostate Cancer UK’s Chief Executive, Owen Sharp, says: “Black men, men over the age of 50 or those with a family history of the disease must wise up to the cruel fact that they face a higher than average risk of prostate cancer than other men. They need to know this so they can instigate potentially life-saving conversations with their GPs about the next steps. This isn’t happening and, as a result, men are walking around like ticking time bombs, completely oblivious to the danger they face.”
The problem doesn’t just lie with a lack of awareness of risk, however. Existing diagnostic tests can be inaccurate meaning that, on one hand, some men receive unnecessary biopsies whilst, on the other, the available tests may fail to detect lethal cancers. In addition, there is no way to easily distinguish between deadly and harmless forms of the disease at the point of diagnosis.
In response, Prostate Cancer UK wants to transform the way risk is calculated so that the most vulnerable can be diagnosed early enough to survive, whilst those at low risk are spared invasive testing or sometimes unnecessary treatments which can have life changing side effects. Today, the charity announces plans to fund research that it hopes will revolutionise the diagnosis landscape. Calling on its growing Men United network, it is raising funds to develop a new tool for GPs to calculate a man’s overall risk of prostate cancer and to determine what tests he needs to undergo.
Sharp continues: “The inaccuracy of the current diagnostic process and its inability to distinguish between aggressive and non aggressive forms of the disease means that GPs face an ongoing challenge in deciding whether or not a man should be tested. Should they risk missing a man’s cancer altogether, or put him through invasive procedures? There’s a desperate need for a simple and effective tool with which GPs can assess a man’s overall risk to guide whether he should undergo further tests.
“In the run up to this Father’s Day we are calling on everyone to support Men United by helping to revolutionise how we detect the most common cancer in men. Father’s Day is an ideal time to talk about this ‘dad’s disease,’ and the risk of it. Ask the serious question ‘how’s your father’ this Father’s Day, and you could help him save his life.”
The charity is launching the latest wave of its Men United campaign, which has built urgency and momentum around the battle against prostate cancer. The activity will be running for two weeks in the run up to Father’s Day. As well as fundraising it will also aim to heighten awareness of known risk factors so that men can start managing their risk today.
Notes to Editors:
About the survey:
i) : Survey figures from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 504 Scottish adults, of which 218 were ‘at risk’ men. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th January and 4th February 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).
About the risk calculator:
Prostate Cancer UK is looking to fund research into a prostate cancer risk calculator that could reduce unnecessary biopsies and treatments, and make sure men likely to get aggressive prostate cancer are detected and treated early.
Prostate cancer risk calculators have already been developed in other countries. The charity wants to fund research that will develop those tools further, will work with the UK population and will be acceptable to men, their doctors and the NHS. This tool will combine information about known prostate cancer risk factors - like family history, age, ethnicity and genetics - with results from a PSA test. This will mean that doctors can give a man a clearer idea about his risk of developing significant (aggressive) prostate cancer. It is hoped it will be ready to roll out across the NHS within the next five years.
About Men United:
• Men are being asked to sign for Men United by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited where they can also test their health knowledge by taking a quick quiz.
• Nearly 200,000 people have signed for the new team, Men United, since its launch in January 2014. But we need an even bigger team to beat the most common cancer in men. Together we can win this.
• Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer. One in four Black men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
• Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.