Male Cancer Awareness Q & A

Amr Hawary, Consultant Urologist here at Shalbourne, explains the signs and symptoms that men - and their partners - should be aware of, and when to get themselves checked out.

Q. What sort of thing should I be checking for?

A. In the case of testicular cancer, if you feel any abnormal mass on self-examination you should see your GP to get it checked out. If you spot an abnormal swelling or raised area or discolouration on the penis or underneath the foreskin, get that checked too. It's very unlikely to be penile cancer (which accounts for less than 1% of all new cancer cases in males in the UK) but it's worth getting confirmation that it's not a malignant lesion. With prostate cancer, in the early stages patients don't usually have any specific symptoms, and it's usually a combination of clinical examination and a blood test that tends to discover the disease. Late stages can present with lower urinary tract symptoms, weight loss or bone pain.

Q. How often should I check my testicles?

A. There is no clear time frame in how often men should self-examine their testicles but most specialists would say once every month. This means you can become familiar with the normal size and shape of your testicles, making it easier to tell if something feels different in the future.

Q. I'm still in my thirties. Surely men of my age don't get prostate or testicular cancer?

A. The risk of prostate cancer rises significantly as men grow older - the majority of men with prostate cancer are over the age of 50, and a significant majority are over the age of 65. However, there are cases of prostate cancer in men of earlier age groups and it tends to be more aggressive in younger men.

Q. Are some men more likely to develop male specific cancers than others?

A. Older men, men with a family history and black men are more at risk of developing prostate cancer. Testicular cancer rates are higher in men with a history of undescended testicles and a history of testicular in the other testicle. Penile cancer rates increase with age, human papilloma virus infections, HIV and smoking.

Q. I've heard that it's sometimes better to leave prostate cancer alone than operate on it - is that true?

A. The treatment of prostate cancer depends on many factors, including the grade and stage of the disease, and the patients age and fitness. A urologist will always sit with the patient once a diagnosis is reached, and go through the treatment options available in detail.

Q. I'd be quite embarrassed about going to my GP about this type of thing. Can I self-diagnose via the Internet?

A. There are lots of things that can give similar presentations. Infection, inflammation and normal anatomical variations can all be confused with malignancies. It is best to see a specialist to get a right diagnosis from the start.

Q. Will I still be able to have sex and use the loo normally after treatment?

A. That depends on the type of cancer and the type of treatment offered - but with all the treatment advances available nowadays this is usually that case