New research shows men with prostate cancer waste vital time by delaying visit to GP

New research - funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity and undertaken by the University of Stirling's Cancer Care Research Centre - has revealed that men have a worrying tendency to delay before going to a GP to discuss symptoms which may be an indication of prostate cancer.

A survey of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde area found that 85 per cent had experienced symptoms for more than a month before contacting a health professional. Almost half of this group, 41 per cent, waited for more than a year before seeking medical advice about symptoms which may be linked to prostate problems, including cancer. 

This delay in seeing a GP is despite 57 per cent describing their symptoms as 'troublesome', almost 50 per cent as 'worrying' and 46 per cent reporting that their symptoms impacted on their everyday lives. Almost a third felt 'depressed' as a result of their symptoms, with a quarter describing them as 'painful.'

Eight out of ten of those who put off seeking medical assistance did so on the basis that they thought their symptoms were just part of the normal ageing process. Just over 20 per cent delayed due to being 'embarrassed', with nine per cent stating they would rather not find out if they were ill.

Despite prostate cancer being the most common cancer in men in Scotland, half of the men surveyed - who were all diagnosed with prostate cancer - believed they were at a low risk of developing the disease.

The publication of the research coincides with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout March.

Commenting on the findings Ann Ferguson, Head of Operations at The Prostate Cancer Charity in Scotland, said: "This research offers a valuable insight into understanding how many men delay visiting their GP even if they are concerned about symptoms that could be related to prostate cancer, and why they do so.

"Although in some men prostate cancer can be slow-growing, others will have an aggressive form of the disease - where time is very much of the essence. The earlier prostate cancer can be detected the higher the chance there is of it being treated successfully. The Prostate Cancer Charity would therefore encourage men not to delay seeking medical advice on experiencing symptoms such as changes in urinary habits."

Dr Liz Forbat from the University of Stirling's Cancer Care Research Centre, said: "Knowledge of prostate cancer appears to be low even amongst those who are most at-risk. To increase men's timely diagnosis of prostate cancer it is essential that information about the factors which may increase a man's susceptibility to the disease, including age and family history, are effectively communicated.

"Our research indicated that a viable intervention would be one that draws on informal networks - such as social and sports clubs and family relationships - to encourage men who are most at risk of the disease to discuss with a health practitioner about whether having a PSA test is right for them."