Increase in cases of cancers affecting men

22 April 2016

This year it is expected that more than 43,000 men in this country will be diagnosed with prostate, testicular and penile cancer.

Most of these, over 40,000, will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, with 2,200 being given a diagnosis of testicular cancer and the remainder with the much more uncommon penile cancer.Faster treatment

Unfortunately these figures are rising, so in a bid to bring the issue of male cancers into the spotlight, national charity Orchid is holding a Male Cancer Awareness Week, which runs 18 April-24 April.

The charity’s aim is to cut deaths from male cancers through research and awareness and the week will include information days, talks, displays and training sessions.

Orchid believes awareness is vitally important as, if caught early, the cancers can be treated and lives could be saved.

By engaging people in the campaign Orchid is hoping to ensure that more people, not just men but their partners and healthcare professionals, learn to spot the signs and symptoms so early action can be taken.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer develops when the gland’s normal, healthy cells, start reproducing uncontrollably. Usually the growth is slow and there may be very few symptoms so the cancer may not be apparent for many years. In some men though, prostate cancer can progress more swiftly and can spread to other parts of the body; but this still tends to be more slowly than other cancers.

It is mainly men over the age of 60 who are affected and it is believed that most men in their 80s will have abnormal cells in their prostate. Diagnosis is most common in men in their mid 70s and it is unusual for men under 50 to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Risk factors include having a brother or father with prostate cancer which doubles the chances of a diagnosis. If a second degree relative has been affected the risk is marginally lower but if someone has both a first and second degree relative with prostate cancer their risk could be four times greater than someone without any affected relatives.

More than 1,000 men under the age of 55 years are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK. Up to 10 per cent of these early-onset cases of prostate cancer are thought to be caused by inherited (genetic) forms of the condition.

Other risk factors include having breast cancer in the family and prostate cancer is more likely to prove fatal to men of Afro-Caribbean descent although it is not known why their risk is higher.

It is thought that eating a lot of red meat and saturated fats may increase the risk of a number of cancers, including prostate cancer, and that a more Mediterranean diet high in fruit, fish, vegetables and olive oil along, with regular exercise, could be beneficial not just for lessening the risks of cancer but for good health generally.

There is no one symptom to identify prostate cancer and as men can develop non-cancerous prostate problems (eg benign prostate enlargement) as they age problems can be put down to getting older.

However, symptoms may include:

  • A weak or slow flow of urine
  • More frequent urination
  • Difficulty with beginning to urinate
  • A pain or burning feeling during urination
  • An unexplained urinary infection
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Constipation or a change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the semen or urine
  • Back pain for no obvious reason which does not improve with pain killers.

Many of the above symptoms may be totally unrelated to prostate cancer but anyone concerned should make an appointment with their GP.

Testicular cancer

Unlike prostate cancer, testicular cancer affects mainly younger men aged 15-45. Every year 2,200 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease.

If caught early, the cure rate is high with 98 per cent becoming disease free after a year. If caught at any stage 98 per cent of men will survive at least 10 years following treatment. This means that around 60 young men die of testicular cancer every year.

Testicular cancer has few known risk factors although in a small number of cases if is felt there may be a link to un-descended testicles or others in the family having had the disease.

Research suggests it may be more prevalent in men with fertility problems or who have HIV. There also appears to be an increased risk in men who have a sedentary lifestyle, who have suffered repeated trauma to their testicles and men who smoke marijuana may be vulnerable to suffering a more aggressive form of the cancer.

Symptoms include:

  • A pea sized lump which can be felt in nine out of 10 cases which is most often painless
  • An ache, pain or dragging sensation
  • A lump appearing after recent trauma to the testicles
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Back pain

It is recommended that men should examine themselves regularly – at least once a month and become familiar with what feels normal. If they discover anything unusual, they should get it checked by their GP straight away. Although 90 per cent of abnormalities affecting testicles are not cancerous it is important to be sure as a swift diagnosis can improve the chances of a cure.

Penile cancer

This is a very rare condition with just 650 cases a year, mostly in men over 60.

It usually develops slowly and if caught early, before it spreads, three quarters of those affected will survive.

Causes can include the human papilloma virus, the presence of foreskin, and smoking. Using a condom during sex can decrease the risks.

Anyone concerned about any of these symptoms should contact their GP to have them checked out.