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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 July 2007, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Fear 'makes men shun cancer help'
Prostate cancer cell
Prostate cancer is a major killer
Fear of what the symptoms of prostate cancer may mean stops men from seeking medical help, a study suggests.

A Birmingham University team quizzed 20 men with prostate disease, such as cancer, about how they made the decision to consult a doctor.

One of the key themes that emerged was that men often recognised they may have the symptoms of a serious disease.

But they delayed going to a GP because of fear of the condition and the fact it was not "macho" to seek help.

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer, with more than 30,000 new cases a year.

It affects the prostate gland, which is found near the bladder in men, and produces one component of semen.

As this study also indicates, we need to understand a lot more about men's perceptions of and their actual experience of entering and using the healthcare system
Dr Chris Hiley, of The Prostate Cancer Charity

Symptoms include pain when urinating or ejaculating, blood in the semen or urine and pain in the lower back, hips or thighs.

Researchers interviewed men aged 51 to 75 who all had prostate disease, including cancer, the British Journal of Health Psychology reported.

The report said several themes emerged as to why they delayed seeking help.

Pressure to live up to the stereotype that real men ignored health problems was commonly mentioned.

The team also said the possibility of having cancer invoked considerable anxiety among participants and this caused them to avoid health information or minimise the seriousness of symptoms.

Concern

The respondents said that they felt male GPs often had negative attitudes towards men and that they were also concerned by the prospect of rectal examinations, which are used to help diagnose prostate cancer.

Lead researcher Dr Susan Hale said: "This suggests that, far from ignoring the symptoms or being uncaring about their health, men are extremely anxious.

"Fears about the effects of illness and treatment emerged as major influences on their eventual decisions to seek help."

Dr Chris Hiley, head of policy and research at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "This study is really interesting.

"It throws up all kinds of questions about men's behaviour and their interpretation of health messages which we must pay attention to as a charity active in health awareness.

"As this study also indicates, we need to understand a lot more about men's perceptions of and their actual experience of entering and using the healthcare system."


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