What comes to mind when you think of men and cancer?
If it’s testicular or prostate cancer, you’re not wrong, and while they only affect men, they’re not the only cancers. In fact, men are more likely than women to be diagnosed with and die from the most common cancers: prostate, bowel, skin and lung.
Men are also less likely to talk about cancer or get help early, which can increase their risk.
With this week being Men’s Health Week, it’s a good time to shed a light on men and cancer and why it’s important for men to stay top of their health.
What is the difference between cancer outcomes for men and women?
We know that men who have cancer don’t fare as well as women who have been diagnosed with cancer:
they have around 4.5 years lower life expectancy
they have poorer health in the last 10 years of life
they have less chance than women, of being alive 5 years after being diagnosed (66 out of 100 women compared to 62 out of 100 men).
And the differences don’t end there. More men than women are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year. We know that 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer before the age of 85.
The good news is this figure is decreasing. Most likely because we have better cancer prevention and screening tools now, and because treatments for cancer have improved.
Why are men more likely to get cancer?
Men in general have more risk factors. The risk factors include higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use, poorer diets, obesity and lower levels of physical activity. Around one third of all cancers in men can be prevented by lessening the impact of these risks.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, but melanoma, lung and bowel cancer round out the top four.
Early detection can help save men from cancer. For example, having a PSA test every 2 years after 50 years of age may help detect prostate cancer at an early stage.
But men don’t go to their doctors, and don’t like to talk about changes in their body with others. One of the most important things we can do is to start the conversation between men, about men and their health.
What about men who have already been diagnosed?
Men who have been diagnosed with cancer often feel a range of emotions, from sadness to anger, instability, and vulnerability, and some are at higher risk of suicide.
Ben, who has finished his cancer treatment, says that once you have a cancer diagnosis, you enter into a whole new world. This world is one where all your plans for the future just disappear – jobs, getting old, having a family, enjoying a meal, and hair! While a lot of men don’t like talking about “life stuff” it’s important to know there is plenty of information and support out there.