Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2003

Men 'delay having cancer checks'

Testicular cancer
Many men are scared about the consequences of discovering testicular cancer

Many men who suspect they may have testicular cancer wait weeks, or even months, before consulting a doctor, researchers have found.

Some said they were embarrassed, while others said they were afraid of losing their masculinity.

The research in the British Journal of General Practice followed the experiences of 45 men from suspecting something was wrong to diagnosis.

The authors said men should be aware the cancer can be successfully treated.

Doctors based at the University of Oxford interviewed men diagnosed with testicular cancer between August 2001 and February 2002.

They were asked to tell their stories from when they first suspected they had a problem, and to explain in detail why any delays had occurred.

In the majority of cases, the men had either found a lump on their testicle, or the testicle had become swollen or painful.

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But some men put off going to see their GP for weeks or even months.

Men need easy access to doctors, at surgeries where they feel welcome, and to clinics where they can seek advice without embarrassment
Dr Ann McPherson, GP

Some were not in any pain and a few had no obvious lump, but others highlighted factors relating to their masculine self-image. Many were afraid to admit they needed help.

Others said they were worried about appearing weak, being seen as a hypochondriac, and losing their masculinity.

Some men also said they were embarrassed about going to see a doctor.

Many were finally prompted to go to their GP after seeing articles about testicular cancer in the media.

The researchers say their findings also showed a diagnosis of testicular cancer could at times difficult to make.

They are calling on GPs to be extra cautious with men who have testicular complaints, and to have a low threshold for sending them for ultrasound investigations of symptoms.

Targeting advice

Dr Ann McPherson, a GP who co-wrote the report, said: "It is important that men know the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer, but equally important that they understand that a diagnosis of testicular cancer is not a death sentence and that the cure rate is excellent.

"Men also need easy access to doctors, at surgeries where they feel welcome, and to clinics where they can seek advice without embarrassment."

Dr Ian Banks, chair of the Men's Health Forum, told BBC News Online: "Some young men wait up to 14 weeks after finding a lump on their testicle before going to the GP.

"I'd like to think things are getting better in terms of men looking after their health. But there seem to be areas where we're no better than we were 20 years ago."

Dr Banks added male health advice had to be designed specifically to appeal to them because many were used to their mothers or partners looking after their health for them.

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