Men and Cancer

The number of men getting cancer is rising. This is partly because men are living longer than ever before. Age is the biggest risk factor for cancer. The good news is that the number of men surviving is also increasing. Overall, men are 14% more likely to get cancer than women. There are a number of reasons for this.

Diagnosing cancer early is an important factor in successful treatment. Being aware of possible symptoms, what is normal for you, and knowing when to go to the doctor helps to diagnose cancers earlier. To help you find out more we have information about cancers that just affect men

Prostate cancer

Symptoms of non cancerous and cancerous prostate conditions

As men get older their prostate gland often enlarges. This is usually not due to cancer. It is a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH does not usually develop into cancer but an enlarged prostate may sometimes contain areas of cancer cells.

Very early prostate cancer generally does not cause any symptoms at all. Many prostate cancers start in the outer part of the prostate gland, away from the urethra. If a tumour is not large enough to put much pressure on the tube that carries urine out of the body (the urethra), you may not notice any effects from it.

The symptoms of growths in the prostate are similar whether they are non cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).

The symptoms include

  • Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  • Difficulty passing urine, including straining to pass it or stopping and starting
  • A sense of not being able to completely empty the bladder

Very rarely you may get

  • Pain when passing urine
  • Blood in the urine or semen

These are more often a symptom of non cancerous prostate conditions.

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer symptoms

A lump or swelling in the testicle
The most common symptom of a testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in part of one testicle. It can be as small as a pea or it may be much larger.

You may notice an unusual difference between one testicle and the other.
Remember that most testicular lumps are NOT cancer. At a testicular clinic at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, only 76 cancers were found out of 2,000 men seen with a testicular lump. This means that fewer than 4 in every 100 testicular lumps (4%) are cancer.

Discomfort or pain in a testicle or the scrotum
Testicular cancer is not usually painful, but about 1 in 5 men (20%) have a sharp pain in the testicle or the scrotum as a first symptom. The scrotum is the sac that holds the testicles.

A heavy scrotum
Your scrotum may feel heavy. Your GP may shine a strong light through your testicle. If you have a fluid filled cyst (called a hydrocoele) rather than a cancer, the light will show through. A cancer is a solid lump and the light can’t pass through it. Your doctor may call this test transillumination.

Cancer of the penis (penile cancer)

Symptoms of penile cancer

The symptoms of penile cancer can be seen on the skin of the penis. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and report any changes to your doctor. Penile cancer symptoms may include

  • A growth or sore on the penis that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks – it can look like a wart, ulcer or blister and is not always painful
  • Bleeding from the penis or from under the foreskin
  • A foul smelling discharge
  • Difficulty in drawing back the foreskin (phimosis)
  • A rash on the penis
  • A change in the colour of the penis or foreskin

These symptoms do not always mean you have penile cancer. They may be symptoms of other medical conditions, such as sexually transmitted diseases. But it is important that you see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. All men should examine their testicles once a month to check for testicular cancer. This is a good time to look for any changes on and around your penis too.

Symptoms of advanced penile cancer

If you have advanced penile cancer (stage 3 or 4) you may have other symptoms too. These include

  • A lump (swollen lymph node) in your groin
  • Feeling tired
  • Abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Pain in your bones
  • Loss of weight

Men are often embarrassed or frightened by such symptoms and may put off going to their doctor until their cancer is more advanced. So it is important to report any symptoms to your doctor straight away. This means that if you have cancer, you can get it diagnosed and treated early.

Other Types of Cancer

Men are more at risk of nearly all the common cancers that affect both sexes including bowel cancer, lung cancer and bladder cancer.

Breast cancer can strike men too, sometimes with fatal consequences. It is rare, often misdiagnosed and even dismissed as a ‘man boob’ problem that men may be too embarrassed to report. Men are much less likely than women to develop breast cancer. But around 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and so we have information.

Male Cancer Organisations

Orchid Cancer (opens in a new window)
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Supporting men affected by testicular, prostate and penile cancers.
Helpline: 0808 802 0010 (lines open Monday, Tuesday, Friday 8.30am- 7.30pm)

Your Privates (opens in a new window)
Campaign encouraging young men to undertake regular life saving checks and be better informed.

Tackle Prostate Cancer (opens in a new window)
A self-help organisation managed by and for men with prostate cancer and their families.
Helpline: 0800 035 5302 (lines open 9am – 9pm)

Checkemlads (opens in a new window)
Support advice for testicular cancer.

Bowel Cancer UK (opens in a new window)
Providing support information for bowel cancer.

Beating Bowel Cancer (opens in a new window)
Offering support to patients of bowel cancer and their families.
Helpline: 020 8973 0011 (lines open Monday – Thursday 9am – 5.30pm, Friday 9am – 4pm)

Action On Bladder Cancer – ABC (opens in a new window)
Providing information about bladder cancer.



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