Prostate awareness 'dangerously low' in British men

By James Gallagher Health editor, BBC News website

 

British men are dangerously ignorant of the prostate gland, according to a men's health charity.

It is crucial for sex as it produces semen and helps with ejaculation. It can also affect urination.

But it is also the leading cause of cancer in men, with 40,000 diagnosed each year, Prostate Cancer UK says.

A survey by the charity showed nearly one in five men did not even know they had a prostate and men were "blind" to the risk of cancer.

The gland, which is about the size of a walnut, sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

It produces the fluid that nourishes sperm.

The survey of 3,500 men found:

  • 92% were clueless about the gland's role
  • 54% did not know where it was
  • 17% did not know they had a prostate

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane, told the BBC News website: "Men are very ignorant, and it's dangerous because prostate cancer is actually the most common cancer in men.

"The things it does affect - ejaculation and sexual function, urine flow and incontinence - are not regularly talked about over the dinner table or in the pub."

Nearly 11,000 men die from prostate cancer each year.

It can have few symptoms in the early stages, and because of its location most symptoms are linked to urination:

  • needing to urinate more often, especially at night
  • needing to run to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to urinate
  • weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating
  • feeling your bladder has not emptied fully

Ms Culhane said: "A man in his 30s with none of the risk factors shouldn't be overly worried - but for men at higher risk, they should have a conversation with their GP or one of our specialist nurses.

"If they have a family history, are black [black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as the overall population] or are over 50, then, generally, they should be thinking about having a conversation.

"As a country, we need to wake up and stop men dying needlessly.

Ignoring prostate cancer won't beat it - only fighting it will."

Former England and Newcastle United footballer Les Ferdinand, who saw his grandfather suffer with the disease at the end of his life, said: "I'm not surprised so many men don't know what their prostate does - it's an easy gland to ignore.

"In fact, until prostate cancer affected my family, my knowledge of the prostate was pretty slim.

"Don't ignore the statistics and don't ignore your risk.

"Join the fight to beat the disease."