References to cancer, how to spot it, how to beat it and how to deal with it, are everywhere in our modern world. The disease that we all dread and fear so much dominates headlines, advertising campaigns and conversations everywhere we go and we all hope that the more that we know about this frightening disease and the more money and time that we invest in understanding it, the more likely it is that we can beat it and create a cancer free world for future generations.
However, one interesting yet worrying feature of our society’s attitudes towards cancer is the fact that female cancers seem to dominate our everyday conversations in a much bigger way than male cancers do. During the last decade, for example, there has been an explosion of information about breast cancer – we are much more open to talking about prevention, cures and how to manage the disease and we see and hear so much about first-hand accounts, charity initiatives and general publicity, which has certainly gone a long way towards removing the stigma and improving our knowledge of the disease.
Whilst this is definitely a positive thing for women’s cancer and for cancer awareness in general, what about the attention paid to cancers which are more likely to target men, such as that of the prostate and testicles? If we are truthful, do we really see as much in the way of publicity of these strains of the disease as we do of women’s cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer? Many believe that we don’t, but the reasons for this are complex and unclear. Let’s therefore take a look at the types of cancer that men are more likely to suffer from and what they and their loved ones can do to understand and recognise the symptoms and ultimately reduce their risk of developing these diseases.
What type of cancers are more often found in men?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. The NHS website states that there are over 40,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed every year which is a frightening statistic in itself.
This cancer is particularly tricky to deal with as there are often very few signs or symptoms of the disease in its early stages, meaning that men often do not seek medical help until the disease is further advanced and therefore more difficult to treat. By the time that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, men may notice other symptoms such as back, hip or pelvis pain or blood in your urine or semen for example and this is often the trigger for them to book a visit to the doctor or confide in a friend or relative about their symptoms but this delay can inevitably affect treatment options and even survival rates.
We also know that, in general, men find it more difficult to discuss their fears or suspicions about having prostate cancer than women do about their health in general and are less likely to visit a doctor to get checked out; perhaps due to embarrassment or not wanting to be seen as “weak” – another reason why this cancer can go undetected for longer.
So, how can you know whether you or someone close to you is at risk of developing prostate cancer? Some of the risk factors are as follows:
- Being aged 50 or over increases the risk of developing prostate cancer, with the average age of diagnosis being between 65 and 69 years of age.
- A history of prostate cancer in your family and your genes can also increase the risk.
- Black men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer – researchers are unsure as to why this is but it could be linked to genetics.
Despite the risk factors above which men have no control over, there are still some things that they can proactively do themselves to reduce their risk.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle could be important, as research appears to indicate that men who are overweight are more at risk of developing prostate cancer. This means that keeping to a healthy weight through middle and old age by having good eating habits and taking regular exercise is important for preventing this disease, as well as other chronic illnesses.
This cancer is much less common than prostate cancer but nevertheless affects more men than it should and does not benefit from as much widespread knowledge and attention as more common cancers such as lung or skin cancer.
Approximately 2,200 men in the UK are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year and this number has rapidly increased in the last generation, doubling since the mid-1970s.
Risk factors for developing testicular cancer include age – it usually strikes men who are aged between 15 and 49. White men are also at an increased risk of this disease versus other ethnic groups. However, the biggest risk factor is actually undescended testicles, therefore it is crucial that this is picked up when a baby boy is born in order to lessen the risk that it presents.
In summary, cancers which affect men do seem to attract less attention and publicity in the media and in society as a whole than those which target women, but there are still some good examples of initiatives which seek to buck the trend and draw more attention towards male cancers. Let’s take the Movember Foundation as an example, a charity which aims to raise funds and publicity for men’s health in general. They have transformed the month of November to “Movember”, with thousands of men growing moustaches to raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancer and to encourage men to be more open and receptive to checking themselves for symptoms and seeking help where they need it. Much more can be done in this area to help to bridge the gap between the focus on women’s and men’s cancers, but initiatives such as these are surely a great starting point.