There is still a significant lack of understanding about prostate cancer and its symptoms among people in the U.S., even though more than three million American men are diagnosed with the disease every year, an awareness report from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) shows.
According to the report, “PCF 3P Report 2018: Public Perception of Prostate Cancer,” nearly three in four Americans (69%) are unaware that early-stage prostate cancer does not present noticeable symptoms, and fewer than one-third (28%) know that men could receive screening with a simple blood test.
“The PCF 3P Report illustrates the profound need for more prostate cancer health education and awareness,” Jonathan W. Simons, MD, president and CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said in a press release.
“Men need to understand that if they are in an at-risk group or over 50, they should be discussing prostate cancer screening options with their primary care physician as one in nine of them will be diagnosed. This is critical information that will help save men’s lives,” Simons said.
To understand how the public perceives prostate cancer, the PCF surveyed more than 2,000 adult men and women across the U.S. Participants were ages 18 and older, including millennials — ages 21 to 37 — gen-Xers, ages 38 to 53 — and baby boomers – ages 54 to 73.
Most men with early prostate cancer don’t experience any symptoms of the disease. Unless patients undergo frequent screening, the disease may go undetectable for many years. When it is diagnosed at later stages, the cancer is more aggressive and difficult to treat.
However, only 31% of Americans correctly said there are no noticeable symptoms for early-stage prostate cancer, and even though that is true, 42% said that symptoms are one of the top three reasons to get screened, followed by risk factors and a recommendation.
Current screening guidelines recommend that men should begin regular screenings when they turn 50 or if they have a high risk for the disease — those with a family history of the prostate cancer and men of African-American descent.
Screening is done through a test that measures the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood, and should be based on a shared clinical decision between a patient and their healthcare provider.
But the report showed a significant lack of awareness about prostate cancer screening, with only 42% of men having discussed screening with their doctor, and only 28% who know that screening starts with a blood test.
Of note, 68% of men said they would be screened if they could receive a blood test instead of a physical examination.
Because most men think screening involves a physical examination like digital rectal exams, they point to embarrassment, being uncomfortable, and fear of diagnosis as the top three reasons for not getting screened.
Another troubling observation was that minorities, including African-American men, were less likely to have been screened. African-Americans are 74% more likely to develop prostate cancer than men of any other ethnicity, and are 2.4 times more likely to die from the disease than Caucasians.
Also, only 40% of participants was aware of a genetic link between prostate and breast cancer, and only 12% believe that BRCA — the most important gene in breast cancer — is also related to prostate cancer.
Millennials were found to be the most underinformed group, with one in five thinking that women could get prostate cancer.