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What Men Should Know About Prostate Cancer — But Don't

New prostate cancer awareness survey reveals widespread misconceptions (Nov. 8)

A recent survey, reported on November 8 by Janssen Biotech, has uncovered both a surprising lack of awareness and a profound emotional impact of prostate cancer 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 and more than 28,000 deaths from the disease expected in 2012. Despite these 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%) believe that they won't be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than half (52%) believe that if they are diagnosed, the disease will not be fatal.

Nearly all of the men surveyed also failed to identify correctly several of the symptoms of the disease. Ninety-three percent of the men 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, the survey suggests.

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% 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.

While significant others may help get their mates to the doctor, another fear often lingers. The survey shows that men aren’t just worried about their own physical health; they’re also worried about the health of their love lives, with 58% of men reporting that they’re concerned about the negative impact that losing the ability to be intimate could have on their relationships. Nearly a third (28%) of those surveyed report that they would forgo prostate cancer treatment if there were a chance they’d lose their ability to be intimate.

The survey also 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 are Caucasian and Hispanic men, and yet nearly half of African-American men (44%) say it is very unlikely that they will ever be diagnosed with the disease, compared with 30% of all men.

The survey results suggest 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. In addition, 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.

Source: Janssen Biotech; November 8, 2012.

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