More than a third of men in Northern Ireland are oblivious to the early signs of prostate cancer, a survey has revealed.
In a UK-wide poll of 1,000 men over the age of 50, more than 35% admitted they had no idea what to look out for. In Northern Ireland, 37.5% said they were clueless about warning signs.
This is despite prostate cancer being the most common cancer in UK men, with around 40,000 new cases being diagnosed every year.
Experts have urged men to educate themselves on symptoms and to check any with their GP.
Oncologist Dr Jiri Kubes, medical director of the Proton Therapy Center, who commissioned the research, said: “Men over the age of 50 should be keeping a close eye on the health of their prostate. For men with a family history of the disease, this should start even earlier.
“Prostate cancer is extremely common in men but the chances of surviving the disease if you catch it early enough are good.
“It’s therefore vital that men are aware of the early warning signs, and are visiting their GPs as soon as they suspect something may be wrong. Often, prostate cancer can be present without any warning signs.”
Just over half of those asked said they only had a ‘general understanding’ of the early symptoms.
Common warning signs of the illness include difficulty going to the the bathroom and pain or discomfort when passing urine. A sudden, urgent need to visit the toilet at night can also be an early indication of the disease.
In Northern Ireland, 37.5% of respondents said they had no idea what to look out for, while 54% said they only had a general understanding of the early symptoms.
Tests for prostate cancer include a digital rectal examination, a PSA test which measures the levels of prostate specific antigen in the blood, and a biopsy.
A number of men from the UK and Ireland who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer have been treated at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague, Czech Republic, where pioneering technology is used to blast cancerous cells.
Dr Kubes, a specialist in prostate cancers, said: “Currently, prostate cancer sufferers make up around 40 to 50% of all our patients.
“Many of these come to us because they are worried about the side effects of surgery and traditional radiotherapy.
“Traditional radiotherapy uses high energy beams to target and kill cancerous cells but in the process surrounding tissue can also be damaged.
“In contrast, proton therapy uses an accelerated beam of positively-charged particles to attack cancerous cells and due to its pinpoint precision, it can directly target tumours in hard-to-reach areas and reduce the risk of harm to surrounding tissue.
“In an area as delicate as the prostate, this is particularly important.”
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland said: “As prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in UK it is vitally important that men, especially those over 40 who are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, know and talk about the warning signs or symptoms.
“It’s typically slow growing and often men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have any symptoms.
“However, when symptoms do appear they may include poor urine flow, hesitancy or urgency passing urine, passing urine more frequently, especially at night, dribbling, the appearance of blood in urine or semen and back or bone pain.
“Although these can be symptoms of prostate cancer they may also be signs of other less serious conditions. If you’re experiencing any or some of these for three weeks or more, we would recommend you contact your GP.”
A recent study from the US found that men who ejaculated 21 times a month or more were less likely to report prostate cancer than those who ejaculated four to seven times a month.
Other recommendations to help reduce your risk of prostate cancer include doing regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
"Prostate cancer is extremely common in men but the chances of surviving the disease if you catch it early enough are good.Its therefore vital that men are aware of the early warning signs, and "
Dr Jiri Kubes