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Prostate cancer: almost one in five “lethally ignorant”

A new survey carried out by a leading prostate cancer charity has revealed a serious lack of awareness among men about their own bodies and their risk of prostate cancer, despite the fact that one man every hour dies from the disease.

The research carried out by Prostate Cancer UK, which surveyed almost 2,000 men, showed that most had no idea what the gland did or even that they had one. 92% of them did not know that the prostate helps make the fluid sperm swims in and contains muscles for ejaculation, whilst more than half did not know where it was in their body. 17% of those surveyed were unaware of it altogether.

Most concerning of all, 88% of men from higher risk groups – those over 50, black or with a family history of the disease – were unaware of their increased danger. An alarming 11% of them believed they were actually at lower risk of developing prostate cancer, and 86% of black men didn't know they were twice as likely to suffer from the disease as any other racial group in the UK.

The results coincide with Prostate Cancer UK’s new nationwide TV advertising campaign, which aims to tackle the ignorance head on, urging men to stop ignoring prostate cancer and join the fight to beat the disease. They have also issued the challenge of halving the number men projected to die from prostate cancer in 2026, currently set at 14,500, through greater awareness and better diagnosis and treatments.

“Ignoring your prostate can be lethal,” says Prostate Cancer UK chief executive, Angela Culhane. “You can’t see it, you can’t feel it, and shockingly many men only realise they have a prostate when it starts to go wrong. As a country, we need to wake up and stop men dying needlessly.”

Vincent Gnanapragasam, consultant urological surgeon at the University of Cambridge and Addenbrookes Hospital and Clinical Adviser to Check4Cancer, comments: “ The first thing to be aware of is that it is a very common disease, affecting around 40,000 individuals a year in the UK, and this is projected to rise to 70,000 a year by 2030. Prostate cancer is also, in effect, asymptomatic, which means that many men will have no symptoms when they have the disease. There's a common fallacy that urinary problems are linked to prostate cancer, but that's not necessarily true – unless the cancer is very advanced, this is unusual. So, it's doubly important to be aware of the disease, to know more about it and to go to your GP for a health check that includes a blood test which can pick up indications of the disease, which is advisable for men over the age of 50. Ignoring this advice can indeed be lethal for some men – but if detected early, prostate cancer can be treated very effectively, and in fact is one of the best cancers with regard to being achieving cure.”

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