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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Chance to improve prostate know-how

MARCH is Prostate Cancer Awareness month, aimed at educating men about the disease. KARL STEEL finds out how Furness Prostate Cancer Support Group are making the most of their month in the spotlight

IT is labelled as the hidden cancer; it can, after all, be difficult to detect something you can’t see or feel for.

Quarter of a million men in Britain are living with prostate cancer, and males in this country have a one in nine lifetime risk of contracting the disease.

Yet it is estimated that 70 per cent of adults in the UK don’t even know where the prostate is, let alone how to detect if there is a problem with it.

March is designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and is aimed at familiarising men with the symptoms and encouraging them to talk about it.

Owen Sharp, chief executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, says: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, hitting thousands of husbands, partners, brothers and dads out of the blue every year.

“Despite this, public awareness of this disease is very low in comparison to other common cancers, as is government investment in research.

“Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is an important opportunity to improve the public’s knowledge of this disease and the issues surrounding it.

“Throughout March we are calling on people across the UK to get involved and demonstrate their support for the 250,000 men living with the disease in the UK, show they are aware of the fight surrounding the most common cancer in men and raise funds for research, so that fewer men are caught off guard by prostate cancer in the future.”

The prostate is a small gland, hidden below the bladder, and is a tube which carries urine from the bladder. It’s about the size of a walnut.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include needing to urinate frequently, having to rush to the toilet, having difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, bone and back pain, straining or taking a long time to urinate and weak flow.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include age – 70 per cent of all prostate cancer cases occur in men over the age of 65, and ethnicity – prostate cancer is more common among men of Afro-Caribbean and African descent.

Research also shows that having a close male relative, such as a brother, father or uncle – who had prostate cancer seems to increase the risk of you developing prostate cancer.

On average over 700 men a year in Cumbria are diagnosed with the condition.

But Paul Booth, chairman of Furness Prostate Cancer Support Group, believes that more can be done to make people aware of the illness.

He says: “One of the things with men is that they don’t like to talk about themselves – they’d rather talk about rugby or football and things like that.

“They also tend to put off going to the doctor’s – I did it myself for 12 months. My wife knew something was wrong, but it was only because she kept pestering me that I eventually went.

“You can’t really test for it like you can for other cancers because you can’t feel for a lump like you can for testicular cancer, you are dependant on your GP.

“It is all about recognising the symptoms, and it’s not just an older man’s illness like it used to be.

“Because it can be passed from one generation to the next, we are seeing younger and younger people being diagnosed.

“I’ve had to make my own sons aware that they have got a higher chance of getting prostate cancer because I’ve had it.

“We don’t have any screening process in this country – we are still striving for a positive test. We only have a PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test that can detect a higher antigen level than normal, but it can’t tell you if that is because of cancer.

“It is only a blood test and the costs are not astronomical, so I think it should be made easier for men to have it. At the moment you can only have the test if you’re displaying the symptoms.”

Throughout March Furness Prostate Cancer Support Group will have a stand at Furness General Hospital and host a coffee morning next Thursday to raise awareness, but also to raise money.

The group relies on donations to help cover travel costs for members, many of whom will have to make up to 37 visits to the specialist hospital in Preston.

“We rely on donations, and a lot of that comes from friends and family,” says Paul.

“People do weird and wonderful things to raise money for us so that we can function.

“We need to pay for a room and a website, but we also pay towards the travel costs of our members who have to go to Preston.

“I’m not in a position to bang on the doors of the NHS and demand people get help with travelling costs, but as a group we can be heard.

“It was hard work to get the group established, but over the last 18 months or so we’ve gone from having a dozen or so members to having about 28.

“I do this all year round, but in March we get the opportunity to do even more.

“The coffee morning is for absolutely anyone who wants to come and see what we’re about, and it is as much about promoting awareness as it is about getting funding so that we can operate 12 months a year.

“We are being taken more seriously now and I have been asked to give awareness sessions by companies like Kimberly-Clark and Centrica to their staff.

“That is something I feel is important and I’d really like to be able to do more of that.

“I hope an event like this will encourage companies to get in touch with us about coming in to give a talk.

“The more people we can reach the better.”

 

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