PRESS RELEASE: Four out of five men at higher than average risk of prostate cancer are unaware of the danger and are therefore not having the vital conversations with GPs that could save their lives, according to new research from the health charity, Prostate Cancer UK. It means thousands of men may miss out on being diagnosed at an early stage, when treatment for the disease is most effective.
Prostate cancer kills one man every hour; the majority of early cases are symptomless, and a lack of accurate tests for life-threatening forms of the disease means there is no national screening programme. As a result, awareness of risk and speaking to a health professional about it is a man’s chief defence against the disease.
Alarmingly, the survey (i), conducted by YouGov on behalf of the charity, showed that more than four in five men (83%) at increased risk of prostate cancer do not grasp that their chance of developing the disease is higher than average, and three quarters (75%) of men at greater risk admit that, even if they were aware but didn’t have any symptoms, they wouldn’t speak to their GP about it. Men at increased risk of prostate cancer include men with a family history of the disease in a father or brother, men over the age of 50 and black men.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of Prostate Cancer UK, which launched its flagship Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign earlier this year in a move to engage men in the fight against their shared risk of prostate cancer, says:
“Black men, men who are over the age of 50 or those with a family history of the disease, must wise up to the cruel fact that they face a higher than average risk of prostate cancer than other men. They need to know this so that they can instigate potentially life-saving conversations with their GPs about the next steps. This isn’t happening and as a result men are walking around like ticking time bombs, completely oblivious to the danger they face.”
However, the problem doesn’t just lie with a lack of awareness of risk. Existing diagnostic tests can be inaccurate, meaning that on one hand, some men receive unnecessary biopsies, while on the other the tests available may fail to detect lethal cancers. In addition, there is no way to easily distinguish between deadly and harmless forms of the disease at the point of diagnosis.
In response, Prostate Cancer UK wants to transform the way that risk is calculated so that the most vulnerable can be diagnosed early enough to survive, whilst those at low risk are spared invasive testing or sometimes unnecessary treatments which can have life changing side effects. Today, the charity announces plans to fund research that it hopes will revolutionise the diagnosis landscape. Calling on its growing Men United network, it is raising funds to develop a new tool for GPs to calculate a man’s overall risk of prostate cancer and to determine what tests he needs to undergo.
Sharp continues: “The inaccuracy of the current diagnostic process and its inability to distinguish between aggressive and non aggressive forms of the disease means that GPs face an ongoing challenge in deciding whether or not a man should be tested. Should they risk missing a man’s cancer altogether, or put him through invasive procedures? There’s a desperate need for a simple and effective tool with which GPs can assess a man’s overall risk to guide whether he should undergo further tests.
“In the run up to this Father’s Day we are calling on everyone to support Men United by helping to revolutionise how we detect the most common cancer in men. Father’s Day is an ideal time to talk about this ‘dad’s disease’ and risk. Ask the serious question; ‘How’s your father’ this Father’s Day and you could help him save his life.”
Men United Gaffer, Bill Bailey, the face of the campaign says: “It may have escaped your notice, but Father’s Day is almost here. And that’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves that prostate cancer kills over 10,000 men in the UK every year. Not just dads, but brothers, granddads, sons, uncles and nephews too. So we’ve put a team together to beat it. Men United. Since kick off in January, nearly two hundred thousand people have signed up. Join them and join the fight, and help fund essential research to find a way to calculate every man’s risk of getting a disease that kills one bloke every hour. So go on, help score Men United’s first win and give a Father’s Day Fiver. Score a real win today.”
The charity is launching the latest wave of its Men United campaign, which has built urgency and momentum around prostate cancer. The activity will be running for two weeks in the run up to Father’s Day. As well as fundraising it will also aim to heighten awareness of known risk factors so that men can start managing their risk today.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About the survey:
i) Survey figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2864 adults, of which 1,291 were ‘at risk’ men. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th January and 4th February 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Men were asked about their awareness of prostate cancer, factors that could increase their risk and what would prompt them to speak to their GP. The survey findings revealed:
• 84% of men over the age of 50 are unaware that their risk of prostate cancer is higher than average. This is also true of 90% of black men and 50% of men who have a family history of prostate cancer in a father or brother.
• In addition, 77% of men over the age of 50 admitted that even if they were aware that they were at a higher than average risk of cancer, but didn’t have any symptoms, they wouldn’t speak to their GP about it. This is also true of 69% of black men and 65% of men who have a family history of prostate cancer in a father or a brother.
About the risk calculator:
Prostate Cancer UK is looking to fund research into a prostate cancer risk calculator that could reduce unnecessary biopsies and treatments, and make sure men likely to get aggressive prostate cancer are detected and treated early.
Prostate cancer risk calculators have already been developed in other countries. The charity wants to fund research that will develop those tools further, will work with the UK population and will be acceptable to men, their doctors and the NHS. This tool will combine information about known prostate cancer risk factors - like family history, age, ethnicity and genetics - with results from a PSA test. This will mean that doctors can give a man a clearer idea about his risk of developing significant (aggressive) prostate cancer. It is hoped it will be ready to roll out across the NHS within the next five years.
About Men United:
• Men United v Prostate Cancer is our call for men to join together in a movement against the common enemy of prostate cancer. The aim is to build a united front of men against this disease. We want to get the message out about one of the UK’s biggest man killers, support men affected by it, and intensify the search for more reliable tests and treatments for the future.
• Men are being asked to sign for Men United by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited where they can also test their health knowledge by taking a quick quiz.
• Nearly 200,000 people have signed for the new team, Men United, since its launch in January 2014. But we need an even bigger team to beat the most common cancer in men. Together we can win this.
About Prostate Cancer UK:
• Prostate Cancer UK fights to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. We support men and provide vital information. We find answers by funding research into causes and treatments. And we lead change, raising the profile of the disease and improving care. We believe that men deserve better.
• Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer. One in four Black men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
• Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.