Skip header navigation

New research shows men with prostate cancer waste vital time by delaying visit to GP

Back to news

New research - funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland and undertaken by the University of Stirling’s Cancer Care Research Centre - has revealed that men have a worrying tendency to delay before going to a GP to discuss symptoms which may be an indication of prostate cancer.

A survey of men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde area found that 85 per cent had experienced symptoms for more than a month before contacting a health professional. Almost half of this group, 41 per cent, waited for more than a year before seeking medical advice about symptoms which may be linked to prostate problems, including cancer.  

This delay in seeing a GP is despite 57 per cent describing their symptoms as ‘troublesome’, almost 50 per cent as ‘worrying’ and 46 per cent reporting that their symptoms impacted on their everyday lives. Almost a third felt ‘depressed’ as a result of their symptoms, with a quarter describing them as ‘painful.’

Eight out of ten of those who put off seeking medical assistance did so on the basis that they thought their symptoms were just part of the normal ageing process*. Just over 20 per cent delayed due to being ‘embarrassed’, with nine per cent stating they would rather not find out if they were ill.

Despite prostate cancer being the most common cancer in men in Scotland, half of the men surveyed - who were all diagnosed with prostate cancer - believed they were at a low risk of developing the disease.

The publication of the research coincides with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout March.

Commenting on the findings Ann Ferguson, Head of Operations at The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland, said: “This research offers a valuable insight into understanding how many men delay visiting their GP even if they are concerned about symptoms that could be related to prostate cancer, and why they do so.

“Although in some men prostate cancer can be slow-growing, others will have an aggressive form of the disease – where time is very much of the essence. The earlier prostate cancer can be detected the higher the chance there is of it being treated successfully. The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland would therefore encourage men not to delay seeking medical advice on experiencing symptoms such as changes in urinary habits.”

Dr Liz Forbat from the University of Stirling’s Cancer Care Research Centre, said: “Knowledge of prostate cancer appears to be low even amongst those who are most at-risk. To increase men’s timely diagnosis of prostate cancer it is essential that information about the factors which may increase a man’s susceptibility to the disease, including age and family history, are effectively communicated.

“Our research indicated that a viable intervention would be one that draws on informal networks - such as social and sports clubs and family relationships – to encourage men who are most at risk of the disease to discuss with a health practitioner about whether having a PSA test** is right for them.”

Anyone concerned about prostate cancer can call The Prostate Cancer Charity's free and confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383. The Helpline is staffed by specialist nurses and is open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and Wednesdays from 7pm - 9pm.

Alternatively please visit:

Background information:

*Changes in urinary habits can be a harmless part of the ageing process, but they can also be linked to problems with the prostate gland, including cancer. Anyone noticing these symptoms is therefore well advised to consult their GP.

**The PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test is a blood test that is the first step in diagnosing prostate problems that may be cancer.

Prostate cancer: Exploring the reasons for timing and presentation and diagnosis
All figures quotes in the release are taken from: Prostate cancer: Exploring the reasons for timing and presentation and diagnosis, published by the University of Stirling’s Cancer Care Research Centre and funded by The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland.

The study was undertaken to determine the pattern of timing of presentation with a diagnosis of prostate cancer in the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde area. A postal survey was distributed to all men in Greater Glasgow & Clyde who were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008/9 (N=458).

  • The survey was returned by 320 men; a response rate of 70%.
  • A stratified sub-sample of survey respondents were interviewed (N=30); when possible, men’s partners were included in these interviews.
  • Quantitative data were analysed with descriptive and inferential statistics (chi-square and Spearman’s).
  • Qualitative data were analysed thematically, informed by psychosocial theories of delay.
  • Urinary symptoms do not necessarily indicate prostate cancer. Men can have symptoms but this does not mean they have cancer. Men who delayed with symptoms for months/years may not have had cancer for the entire period of time.

The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Scotland. Older men, men with a family history of prostate cancer and men of black African and black Caribbean descent are more at risk.

  • 2,700 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Scotland and 19,000 Scottish men are currently living with the disease.
  • Two men die of prostate cancer every day in Scotland.
  • The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland is striving for a world where lives are no longer limited by prostate cancer. The Charity is fighting prostate cancer on every front - through research, support, information and campaigning.
  • The Prostate Cancer Charity in Scotland has a network of established support groups. The groups are free to attend and open to men living with prostate cancer, their partners, families, friends or carers. The groups meet regularly and offer the opportunity for informal chat and discussion, guest speakers and free literature. To get involved please call The Prostate Cancer Charity in Scotland on 0141 314 0050

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is an annual health awareness campaign organised by The Prostate Cancer Charity.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Despite recent improvements in prostate cancer services, many men are still subject to a legacy of neglect, ranging from difficulties in diagnosis through to limited access to information and support to help them cope with the impact of treatment for the disease. Throughout March, The Prostate Cancer Charity is calling on people to join the charge and declare ‘I’m aware’.

Thousands of individuals and groups across the UK will join forces to show that they are aware of prostate cancer. There are numerous ways to get involved, from staging an information day or taking part in a Day of Action to holding a fundraising event.

Marks & Spencer, which has raised over £1million for The Prostate Cancer Charity in the past five years, is backing Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. People are urged to visit their local store to show that they are aware of the fight surrounding the most common cancer in men.
Anyone wanting to participate in Prostate Cancer Awareness Month can request an information pack. Please call 0141 314 0050 or email or visit the campaign website


For further details on the above release or to request an interview, please contact:
Alistair Haw
Campaigns & Media Manager
The Prostate Cancer Charity Scotland
T: 0141 314 0050
M: 07956 285 155

You may also be interested in