Prostate Cancer UK urges people to have vital talks with their relatives and GP about the most common cancer in men, after our new study reveals half of all UK men don't know about their increased risk of the disease if other family members have had it.
Two-thirds of men with a family history of prostate cancer are dangerously unaware of their increased risk of the disease and half of all UK men don't know that a family link makes you two-and-a-half times more likely to get it, according to new research by Prostate Cancer UK presented today at a Public Health England conference in Manchester.
It's prompted urgent calls from the charity for men and their families to have a potentially life-saving talk about the disease with their relatives and doctor. Especially since an accompanying study today showed that only 1-in-10 GPs are likely to always ask a man whether any close relatives have had the disease. Although where men did take the lead and initiate a discussion with their doctor, it found their experiences were overwhelmingly positive.
"We need men to feel empowered to take control of their own health, find out their family history and proactively ask their GP whether they need tests for the disease due to their risk of developing it," says Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK.
"Currently this isn’t happening nearly enough and the increased risk due to family history of prostate cancer is being dangerously overlooked by both men and their GPs. This must change.
"Every single one of us can do our bit to reduce the number of men who lose their lives to prostate cancer every year in the UK. Ask your dads, brothers, grandads, husbands, partners and friends about prostate cancer and urge them to book an appointment with their doctor if they have a family history of the disease.
"Our ultimate goal is to develop more accurate diagnosis methods, so that no man slips through the net. But until we reach that point, awareness of the risks and willingness to take action remain the best way to catch the disease early – and we all need to play our part."
Kevin Webber [picture above with his wife and three children] was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer two-and-a-half years ago, at the age of 49, but had no idea that his father having the disease put him at greater risk.
"What I didn’t know back then was that one of the biggest risk factors for prostate cancer is family history," says Kevin. "My dad has been living with the disease for 14 years but I had no clue that this increased my risk by two-and-a-half times.
"I also didn’t know that the symptoms for prostate cancer often don’t appear until the disease is at a much later stage. I could have been living with prostate cancer for years but because I was completely oblivious to my increased risk, I didn’t do anything about it until unfortunately it was too late.
"Thankfully, my two sons know to speak to their doctor about their risk when they’re older. Make sure any other close male relatives are aware of this potential threat. It could be the most important conversation either of you ever have."
Kevin is determined to make a difference by raising money for research so that prostate cancer becomes a disease that his sons will not have to fear. Since 2 June, he's been walking a marathon every day alongside Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, from Exeter to Newcastle, as part of Prostate Cancer UK’s March for Men events.
To track their progress or sign up for one of three March for Men walks taking place over the Father’s Day weekend, visit www.marchformen.org.