A study just released in the U.K. confirms what’s long been known, that men are more likely to develop cancer than are women. The study also shows men are far more likely to die of cancer, in large part because they delay seeking treatment.
Cancer study results
The study of over 2,300 patients who collectively had 15 different types of cancer, published in the British Journal of Cancer (BJC), found men are more likely to avoid going to a doctor if they encounter symptoms of potential illness.
For example, the researchers found 44 percent of men with prostate cancer delayed paying a visit to their doctor for more than 3 months after symptoms began; that number compares with just 8 percent of women delaying a visit to their doctor after the advent of breast cancer symptoms.
Dr. John Chisholm is a former GP and now the chair of the Men’s Health Forum in the U.K. and he told the Daily Mail that the male reluctance to bother a doctor can be deadly. Even in the case of cancers that women get more frequently than men, men are still more likely to die as a result.
“Malignant melanoma is a type of cancer that is more common in women than men but still more men die of it even though more women have it,” says Dr. Chisholm said.
“Men tend to delay going to get their symptoms checked out,” he added. “They are perhaps more worried about the diagnosis than women and are less familiar with the healthcare system.”
He said that in his time as a GP men with cancer symptoms would often “apologize for coming” to see him with their problem. “They would often say they had been pushed into attending by their wife or partner,” he said.
More support needed
The British Journal of Cancer also published statistics showing men are 15 percent more likely to develop cancer and yet an astonishing 36 percent more likely to die from it. If those numbers were reversed for the sexes one might expect steps being taken to change them.
Further, numbers show that following a diagnosis of cancer, men are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression that affects their quality of life. That’s because the healthcare support system, some proponents insist, is geared more to women and because men are less likely to speak of their feelings.
Dr. Frances Goodhart, a clinical psychologist and the author of [i]The Cancer Survivor’s Companion[/i], believes the hgher cancer mortality rate for men is due in part to these existent support services not being wholly inclusive. In researching her book she found services that are more directed toward women than men.
“They are aimed towards discussion about hair loss, fertility post treatment — it all very much focuses on women,” she told the Mail. “(And) there is clear evidence that women find it easier to express their needs and talk about their concerns and to accept help.
“Men are different,” she added. “And people need to give them permission to talk about their feelings so they feel they can say: ‘I’m feeling down, vulnerable etc.'”
Researchers say if a cancer patient is getting support their chances of survival are greater. As an example, they point to studies that show cancer patients who are married and getting support at home survive longer than those who are single.
Dr. Chisholm said the solution includes teaching students the ins and outs of the healthcare system and encouraging young males to talk about their issues.