Health Wise: Men and cancer

On average, men go to their GP half as often as women. Which makes focusing on men’s health an important part of the occupational health services that we offer to organisations and their employees.

In this blog, we’re going to take a look at the facts behind the three cancers that only affect men; prostate, testicular and penile cancer.

What is prostate cancer?

Between 2014 and 2016, prostate cancer was the most common cancer in UK males, accounting for 26% of cases.

Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland, a walnut-sized gland at the base of the bladder.

It gets bigger as men grow older and prostate cancer is most common in older men.

Black men and men who have a family history of prostate cancer are also high-risk groups.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Early prostate cancer doesn't usually cause any symptoms.

To cause symptoms, the cancer would have to be big enough to press on the urethra, the tube that carries urine.

Some symptoms that might be a sign of cancer include:

  • passing urine more often
  • getting up during the night to empty your bladder
  • difficulty passing urine
  • leaking urine
  • blood or semen in your urine
  • erection problems 

However, these can also be a sign of the prostate becoming enlarged as men get older.

Early detection of prostate cancer

Because the symptoms of an enlarged prostate and prostate cancer are so similar, it’s important to visit your GP if you start to notice any of them.

Early detection can make all the difference.

If detected early, there’s a 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years.

Late detection can drop this figure to as low as 26%.

Testing for prostate cancer

When you reach 50, you should have a conversation with your doctor about prostate testing.

A prostate test will involve the doctor putting a gloved finger into your rectum so that they can feel the size and shape of the prostate.

While it might be uncomfortable, it’s an important procedure.

The doctor may also perform a PSA blood test. This can detect high levels of PSA, the protein that the prostate produces.

While this can be a sign of cancer, it can also be due to other conditions, such as infection.

What is testicular cancer?

Testicular cancer is cancer that develops in the testicles.

Around 2,400 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in the UK each year, that’s about 1% of all diagnoses.

While it’s relatively rare, men in their early 30s are the most likely to get it.

Most testicular cancers develop in the cells that make sperm, called germ cells. 

Symptoms of testicular cancer

A lump or swelling in part of one testicle is the most common symptom of testicular cancer. 

However, most testicular lumps are not cancer.

Testicular cancer is not usually painful. But the first symptom for some men is a sharp pain in the testicle or scrotum.

The scrotum may also feel heavy.

The risks and causes of testicular cancer

We don't know what causes most testicular cancers. But some factors can increase your risk of getting it. These include men with:

  • Undescended testicles
  • Fertility problems
  • A family history of testicular cancer

Testing for testicular cancer

Knowing what is normal for you helps to detect testicular cancer early.

The best thing that you can do is to give your testicles a feel each month or so.

In other words, get to know your nuts!

If something doesn’t seem right, go and see your GP.

Your doctor may shine a strong light through your testicle.

The light will show through a harmless cyst but won’t show through cancer, which is a solid lump.

They will also feel for any areas that might be painful, swollen or not feel normal.

What is penile cancer?

Penile cancer is cancer of the penis. It can develop anywhere on the penis but is most common under the foreskin in men who haven’t been circumcised or on the head of the penis.

It is very rare in the UK.

Symptoms of penile cancer

The following symptoms can be caused by penile cancer, although they can also be due to other medical conditions.

Keep an eye out for:

  • A growth or sore on your penis
  • Bleeding from your penis
  • A foul-smelling discharge
  • A rash on your penis
  • Difficulty drawing back your foreskin
  • A change in the colour of your penis

The risks and causes of penile cancer

The exact cause of penile cancer is not known but a few risk factors include:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Older age, since it is rare in men under 40
  • A weakened immune system
  • Being uncircumcised

However, having any of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop cancer.

Testing for penile cancer

You should see your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

The earlier it's picked up, the higher the chance of successful treatment.

Above all, try not to be embarrassed. 

The doctor is likely to want to examine you. You can ask for someone else to be in the room when they do.

The doctor will examine your penis. They may also check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.

You may also need to give a urine sample. 


These forms of male cancer can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about.

But it’s important to get any concerns that you might have out in the open.

Know your body and keep checking it for any changes.

It’s better to be safe than sorry because early detection can make a big difference.

If you’d like help to support colleagues or staff members that may be dealing with these, or any other kind of cancer, the team at Fusion can provide advice and guidance. Give us a call now.

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Categories: Health & WellbeingHealth WiseOccupational HealthSupport

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