The Great Male Taboo

Getting men to take care of themselves is a mission at the best of times, but deep down we all know it’s healthy to talk…

Why are blokes so weird when it comes to talking about illness? I guess it’s a historic thing – being macho and all that. But there are encouraging signs that attitudes are changing and guys are becoming more open and aware of health issues. Take the subject of prostate cancer for example. High profile campaigns – such as the Men United TV ads fronted by comedian Bill Bailey – appear to be getting the message through. And March’s Prostate Awareness month, organised by Prostate Cancer UK, also helps to inform and educate.


One in eight men is diagnosed with prostate cancer. But there are many treatments aimed at controlling, or completely clearing, the disease. It may sound counter intuitive, but many men receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer for which the best management may be to just watch them closely and only treat if the disease begins to progress. Bill, whose father-in-law survived prostate cancer, said: “”Blokes are not always good at taking care of themselves and, even if they know they have a health problem, they often don’t want to talk about it – or they just hope it will go away. “I only campaign for the things I believe in and I feel very strongly about this. I read a news article about the number of men affected by prostate cancer and I was shocked by the figures. I had no idea it was so common – but, if caught early enough, it can be successfully treated.” Prostate cancer can be slow growing. In its very early stages it may have no symptoms at all, or only mild ones which occur over a long period. For some people, the first symptoms are only when cancer cells spread to the bones, which can cause pain in the back, hips, pelvis or other bony areas. Like all cancers, the important thing is to be vigilant and if possible catch it as early as possible. An appropriate management strategy can then be determined and the good news is that, every year, thousands of men are declared clear of the disease. Prostate cancer is treated in various ways depending on whether the disease is ‘localised’ (limited only to the prostate gland itself), or is ‘locally advanced’ (having spread just outside the prostate) or is advanced (having spread to other parts of the body).


There are various treatment options that may be considered by your clinician and again these will depend on the state and stage of the disease. These include active surveillance where the disease is growing very slowly and may never even progress or have symptoms. In the same way ‘watchful waiting’ might be adopted where the cancer is not causing symptoms or concerns. The aim is to monitor closely over the long-term, but to hold off on any treatment unless the cancer progresses. Bill added: “Prostate cancer is not something to shy away from or worry about. We should work together. Men should talk to their GP – find out more about it. Have a conversation about it. There should be no fear about it, no mystery. Let’s get people to talk about it – and see where that leads.”

The Priory Hospital, Birmingham offers a range of specialists and treatments for prostate cancer. More details at