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The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"The mounting toll from prostate cancer"
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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Men 'ignorant about male cancers'
Laurie Whelan
Laurie Whelan was persuaded to seek help by his brother
Men know more about breast cancer than they do about male cancers, a survey shows.

Cancer: the facts
In the poll, 35% of men said that they knew a great deal or a fair amount about breast cancer while only 25% knew a great deal or a fair amount about prostate cancer.

An alarming 71% of men knew "nothing at all" or only "a little" about prostate cancer.

And men were twice as likely as women to put off going to the doctor, according to GPs who were questioned about their patients by the Institute of Cancer Research.

We need to break the taboos associated with male cancers

Professor Colin Cooper, Institute of Cancer Research
The charity is launching a campaign to raise men's awareness of their own health and break down the taboos that surround male cancers.

It is set to open a Male Cancer Research Centre, which will be the first of its kind in Europe, and the campaign is being backed by Premiership footballers David Batty and Les Ferdinand.

The MORI survey of GPs also revealed that 73% think their male patients are not good at talking about embarrassing medical issues.

Women found it significantly easier to talk to their GP and were more likely to feel reassured.

One in five men come into GP surgeries with symptoms much later than they should, the survey showed.

This is despite the fact that testicular cancer is 96% curable if it is caught and treated early.

There are 19,500 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the UK each year, but only a fraction of research funding goes into the area.

Professor Colin Cooper, who will head the male cancer centre, said: "This research reinforces the need for more information to be available to men.

"We need to break the taboos associated with male cancers and encourage men to forget their embarrassment and talk to their doctors about their worries.

"Men need to realise how important it is to catch any problems early on."

Advanced prostate cancer

Laurie Whelan, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer said he had only gone to his doctor after persuasion from his younger brother.

He told the BBC: "I was aware of the existence of the disease but it never occurred to me that I might have it.

"I didn't really think I had any symptoms either than those you might experience in a person of my age."

He had to persuade his GP to give him a test and he was eventually treated with hormone and radiation therapy because the cancer was too far advanced for surgery.

The first sign of prostate cancer is usually problems passing water - in most cases, an increased frequency or difficulty maintaining a full stream.

Other symptoms include painful urination or ejaculation, blood in urine or semen, and pain in lower back, hips or thighs.

Professor Cooper said more education was needed for both patients and doctors.

The first home test kit which could help detect the early signs of prostate cancer was also launched on Monday.

The Prostate Disease Risk Assessment Test from BodyWATCH detects whether levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) are abnormally high in the blood.

The presence of high levels of PSA can indicate possible prostate infection or cancer.

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See also:

28 Dec 99 | Health
Genes linked to prostate cancer
29 Feb 00 | Health
Men 'don't seek medical help'
02 Mar 00 | Health
1m for prostate cancer research
01 May 00 | Health
Prostate cancer survival boost
17 Mar 00 | C-D
Prostate cancer
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