Public health messages about prostate cancer may be hampering early detection efforts by placing a deceptive focus on urinary symptoms, the scientists argued.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge say that “there is no evidence of a causal relationship between prostate cancer and prostate size or problem male urinary symptoms.”
However, many public health guidelines promote this link – with an increased need to urinate at the top of the list of prostate cancer symptoms provided on the NHS website.
In a review published in the journal BMC Medicine, the Cambridge researchers argue that the “strong public perception” that male urinary symptoms are a key indicator of prostate cancer “may be seriously hampering efforts to encourage early presentation.”
“For early diagnosis rates to improve, we ask for clear and strong messages that prostate cancer is a silent disease, especially in the curable stages, and men should report for testing whether or not they have symptoms,” he says. the article.
“This should be done in parallel with other ongoing efforts to raise awareness, including targeting men at greater risk due to racial ancestry or family history.”
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men.
According to Cancer Research UK, over 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and there are over 12,000 deaths.
More than three quarters (78%) of men diagnosed with the disease survive for more than 10 years, but this proportion has changed little in the last decade in the UK, mainly because the disease is caught at a relatively late stage.
In England, for example, nearly half of all prostate cancers are diagnosed at stage three of four (stage four is the most recent stage).
Vincent Gnanapragasam, Professor of Urology at the University of Cambridge, said: “When most people think of prostate cancer symptoms, they think of problems with peeing or needing to pee more often, particularly at night.
“This misperception has lasted for decades, despite little evidence, and is potentially preventing us from identifying cases at an early stage.”
An enlarged prostate can cause the urinary problems often included in public health messages, but evidence suggests this is rarely due to malignant prostate tumors, according to the researchers.
Instead, research suggests that the prostate is smaller in cases of prostate cancer.
“We urgently need to recognize that the information currently provided to the public risks giving men a false sense of security if they do not have any urinary symptoms,” said Professor Gnanapragasam.
“We need to emphasize that prostate cancer can be a silent or asymptomatic disease, especially in its curable stages.
“Waiting for urinary symptoms can mean missing opportunities to catch the disease when it is treatable.
“Men should not be afraid to talk to their doctor about getting tested and about the value of a PSA test, especially if they have a family history of prostate cancer or have other risk factors such as black or brown. ethnicity”.