What Men Should Know About Prostate Cancer -- But Don't
While the devastating physical effects of prostate cancer are widely known, the psychological impact of the disease is a silent struggle for many men. Janssen Biotech, Inc. releases the results of its "Mind Over Manhood: Misconceptions About Prostate Cancer" survey conducted by Wakefield Research, which uncovers both a surprising lack of awareness and a profound emotional impact of the disease on men.
The survey reveals a significant gap between the facts about prostate cancer and what men believe about the disease. Cancer of the prostate is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, with an estimated 241,000 new cases to be diagnosed and over 28,000 deaths from the disease expected this year. Yet despite these alarming statistics, many men falsely believe that cancer of the prostate is less prevalent and/or less threatening than other cancers. The survey results show that most of the men surveyed (63 percent) believe that they won't be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than half (52 percent) believe that if they are diagnosed, the disease will not be fatal.
Nearly all of the men surveyed also failed to correctly identify several of the symptoms of prostate cancer. An overwhelming majority (93 percent) could not recognize at least two of these symptoms – urinary problems, erectile dysfunction, frequent lower back pain, infertility, swelling of the legs and feet and weight gain – as potential signs of prostate cancer. Without adequate knowledge, men may fail to recognize signs and symptoms and may not be diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage.
While this lack of awareness can cause confusion and uncertainty in men, their partners can play an active role in education, detection, support and care giving. According to the survey, 81 percent of men say they would be grateful if their "other half" scheduled their doctor's appointments. It's important for men to consult a doctor in order to work out a proper screening schedule, so making this initial appointment is a simple, yet important, way for their partners to get the ball rolling.
"Men are not the only ones affected by a prostate cancer diagnosis – it is truly a couple's disease," said Tom Kirk of Us TOO International Education and Support Network, which helps men and their families make informed decisions about prostate cancer detection, treatment and coping options, and a supporting partner on the Janssen Biotech resource, My Prostate Cancer Roadmap (myprostatecancerroadmap.com). "No one should face prostate cancer alone, which is why it's so important for significant others to get the conversation started."
While significant others may help get their mates get to the doctor, another notable – and more intimate – fear often lingers. The survey shows that men aren't just worried about their own physical health; they're worried about the health of their love lives, with 58 percent of men reporting that they're concerned about the negative impact that losing the ability to be intimate could have on their relationships. Just how concerned are they? Nearly a third (28 percent) of those surveyed report that they would forgo prostate cancer treatment if there were a chance they'd lose their ability to be intimate.
Additionally, the survey revealed that men at the highest risk of prostate cancer often fail to recognize their level of risk. Studies suggest that African-American men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer than Caucasian and Hispanic men, yet nearly half of African-American men (44 percent) say it is very unlikely that they will ever be diagnosed, compared to 30 percent of all men.
"It is important that men be aware of risk factors," said urologist Stanley K. Frencher, Jr., MD, MPH. "African-American men and those with a family history are at higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer; consequently, it's of particular importance that men know their family history and share their health concerns and conditions with their family. Men need to talk with one another, father to son, brother to brother and friend to friend about this disease, their experiences when diagnosed and how they have dealt with the impacts of treatment."
The survey suggests that men have an opportunity to increase their awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of prostate cancer, and that fear may prevent them from taking action. Additionally, it suggests that significant others have the opportunity to play an important role in the process, offering unconditional support and encouraging the men in their lives to speak to their doctors about prostate cancer.