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Male doctor speaking to male patient about common cancers in men
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

Cancers common in men: your support and resource guide

Your guide to getting the support and treatment you need for cancers most common in men

Following the series of high-profile cancer diagnoses in the news of late, and the message that cancer need never be faced alone, we’ve put together a guide to help you to understanding every stage of the process of cancer treatment - from symptoms to diagnosis and treatment etc. Last week, we focused on cancer prevalent in women. This week, we’re highlighting some of the most common cancers that affect men.

Whatever form of cancer you may be concerned about, remember that you are not alone.

Why us?

We have spent decades caring for patients across the UK and through our national network of over 50 hospitals, our specialist teams treat, support and care for thousands of patients with cancer each year. We know how distressing the news of a diagnosis can be. With our experience, as a leader in this field, we want to equip you with the information you need to understand the disease and how to navigate the process.

What does a cancer diagnosis look like?

Cancer is one of the toughest battles anyone can face, marked not only by its physical toll, but by the emotional strain it places on individuals and their families. We understand that the journey through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond can feel isolating and daunting, but with the right support, it doesn’t have to be.

Understanding how a diagnosis is made and how to get the help you need can make your journey to recovery that little bit easier. With the right diagnosis and medical support, many people recover from cancer and go on to live happy, healthy lives.

At the start of your journey, you will likely be referred to a specialist by your GP because you are experiencing symptoms that concern you. These symptoms can vary depending on the type of cancer you have. You will likely be given an appointment with a specialist consultant or an oncologist who specialises in the diagnosis of cancer. Your consultant can perform a variety of tests and scans at your appointment to understand the cause of your symptoms, make a diagnosis, and determine whether you need treatment for cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men

Getting an early diagnosis makes a difference

Cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage, which means it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread to several parts of your body, is more likely to be treated successfully. This can mean an increase in the treatment options available, as well as improved long-term survival rates and quality of life.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, which is why it’s important to recognise the symptoms and visit your doctor as soon as they happen. The most common symptoms are:

  • Difficulty starting or stopping urinating
  • A weak flow of urine
  • Straining when peeing
  • Feeling like you're not able to fully empty your bladder
  • Prolonged dribbling after you've finished peeing
  • Needing to pee more frequently or more suddenly
  • Waking up frequently during the night to pee

If you have these symptoms, your doctor can refer you for the right tests and scans and help reach a diagnosis as soon as possible. There is no current screening programme offered for prostate cancer.

The NHS does offer a bowel cancer screening programme, which is available to everyone aged between 60 to 74. The programme is slowly expanding to make it available to everyone aged between 50 to 59. This has been spread out gradually over the last four years, beginning in April 2021. For this test, you will be supplied with a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT). This will allow you to collect a small sample of your stool to be sent to a lab. This is then checked for small amounts of blood.

If you're aged between 55 and 74 and have smoked at some point in your lifetime, you may be offered an NHS lung health check. This is called the targeted lung health check programme. It aims to find lung cancer early, sometimes before you have symptoms. Lung health checks look at how well your lungs are functioning and can help diagnose lung cancer as early as possible. Early diagnosis can make lung cancer more treatable and make treatment more successful.

Currently, lung health checks are only available in some parts of England. They will be available everywhere by 2029.

The most common tests and scans for cancer

From imaging scans, like X-Rays, MRIs, and CT scans, to blood tests, to more specialised tests such as endoscopies or biopsies, each diagnostic test is exceptionally important in the process of building your treatment plan.

Understanding the purpose and process of these tests can make your experience smoother and less intimidating, which is why your consultant is there to answer any questions you have.

Some of the most common tests for most types of cancer include an X-Ray, MRI, or CT scan. These tests use sophisticated technology to create detailed images of the inside of your body to look for cancerous cells. Specialist blood tests can also check for markers of cancer, as can taking a small sample of cells (also known as a biopsy) from inside your body to determine whether these are cancerous. This biopsy might have to be performed at a follow-up appointment as part of your wider diagnosis and treatment journey.

If you have symptoms of prostate cancer, your consultant might offer a PSA test. This measures the total amount of protein produced by your prostate. All men have a small amount of the PSA protein in their blood, and the amount of this protein increases with age. Raised levels of PSA can indicate a problem with your prostate, but this alone can’t diagnose prostate cancer, so you will need to have other forms of testing at your appointment or at a follow-up appointment to reach a diagnosis.

Treatment options for cancer in men

Most cancer consultants will use diagnostic tests to build a comprehensive picture of your health and decide on a treatment plan. Whether it's identifying the right course of treatment, deciding on the necessity of surgery, or determining the most effective medication, diagnostic testing guides every step.

The next step in your journey is having treatment, which depends entirely on the type of cancer you have. The most common types of cancer in men are prostate, bowel, lung, head and neck, and kidney. If you have been diagnosed with any of these types of cancer, there are many treatment options available to you.

Common and effective treatment options for cancer

There are many options, which include:


Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. There are over 50 different chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can stop cancer cells dividing and reproducing themselves. Some are given on their own, but often several drugs are given together (combination chemotherapy). Chemotherapy may also be used with other types of cancer treatments such as surgery, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapies, or a combination of these.

The type of chemotherapy treatment given depends on:

  • The type of cancer you have
  • Where the cancer started in your body
  • What the cancer looks like under the microscope
  • Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body


Radiotherapy uses high energy X-rays and the similar rays (such as electrons) to treat cancer. Many people will have radiotherapy combined with other forms of treatment as part of their plan. Radiotherapy treatment works by destroying the cancer cells in the targeted area. It can be administered in lots of different ways.


Surgery for cancer typically involves removing the area(s) affected by cancer. Your consultant will use specialist instruments to remove the cancer and some healthy tissue around it.

The type of surgery that you might have varies depending on the type of cancer you have. For example, if you have prostate cancer, you can have a radical prostatectomy to remove your prostate gland. This is usually performed when prostate cancer has not spread to other parts of your body. During a radical prostatectomy, your consultant removes your entire prostate, surrounding tissue, and seminal vesicles (glands that produce semen). They may also remove some lymph nodes.

If you have bowel cancer, your consultant might remove the part of your colon containing the tumour. This procedure is called a colectomy. How much your surgeon removes depends on the position and size of the cancer. Surgery to remove the whole of your large colon is called a total colectomy. The type of colectomy you have depends on where the cancer is. Surgery to remove part of your colon is called a hemicolectomy or a partial colectomy.

Not all cancers can be treated with surgery, and sometimes surgery isn’t possible based on your individual circumstances, such as the size and where it has spread.

A combination of treatment options is often needed

Cancer is usually always treated with a combination of these options.

The specialists looking after you will assess your individual needs and go through your treatment plan in detail with you. This ensures that you have all the information you need to feel informed and safe throughout.

They’ll discuss the benefits and risks of each option, other treatment options if needed, and what you can expect in terms of recovery and outcomes.

The most common types of men’s cancer in the UK

The most common cancers affecting men in the UK are:

Prostate cancer

As mentioned above, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in men in the UK. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Finding it difficult or painful stop urinating
  • Having a weaker flow of urine
  • Straining when urinating
  • Waking up throughout the night to pee
  • Feeling like you're not able to fully empty your bladder
  • Excess pee that happens after you've finished peeing
  • Needing to pee more often or more urgently, which can be uncomfortable

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is cancer found anywhere in your large bowel, which includes the colon and rectum. Common symptoms include:

  • Needing to go to the toilet more or less often than usual for you
  • Blood in your stool, which may look red or black
  • Bleeding from your bottom
  • Often feeling like you need to go to the toilet, even if you've just been
  • Tummy pain
  • A lump in your tummy
  • Bloating
  • Losing weight without trying

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. More than 43,000 people are diagnosed in the UK each year. There are usually no signs or symptoms in the very early stages of lung cancer, but many people develop symptoms as the cancer grows, including:

  • A persistent cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent breathlessness
  • Unexplained tiredness and weight loss
  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing

Head and neck cancer

There are more than 30 areas within your head and neck where cancer can develop, including your:

  • Mouth and lips
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Nose and sinuses
  • Throat (pharynx)
  • Salivary glands
  • The area at the back of the nose and mouth (nasopharynx)

Each area presents with different symptoms. You might find an unusual lump in your mouth or throat that feels painful and doesn’t heal, or you may suffer from a sore throat that doesn’t go away. These symptoms can be caused by many conditions, including cancer, so it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as you have them.

Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer, also called renal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in your kidneys. It is most common in people over 60.

How serious kidney cancer is depends on where it is in your kidney and whether it has spread. Common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Blood in your pee
  • A lump or swelling in your back, under your ribs, or in your neck
  • Pain between your ribs and waist that does not go away
  • Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
  • Feeling tired or having no energy
  • A high temperature that does not go away
  • Sweating a lot, including at night

One risk factor in any type of cancer is family history... You might share similar genes to your family or share simply habits and environments that could affect your risk of cancer.

Understanding your family history

One risk factor in any type of cancer is family history. Knowing your family history is important. You might share similar genes to your family or share simply habits and environments that could affect your risk of cancer. Letting your doctor know whether you have a family history of cancer can help them decide which diagnostic testing you might need.

Support groups and resources that can help

We offer many resources to support you during your time in hospital, but it can help to join groups and communities outside of hospital to meet people going through a similar situation and navigating life with a cancer diagnosis.

These groups provide a safe and understanding environment where members can share personal experiences, express emotions, and discuss fears and hopes with others who truly understand what it means to live with cancer. The collective wisdom within these groups can offer practical advice on managing the disease. Being part of a support group can significantly reduce feelings of isolation and depression, as you can find solidarity and companionship among others facing similar challenges.

You can contact charity organisations such as Cancer Support UK and Macmillan Cancer Support or use the directories on their websites to find a support group near you.

Some of our hospitals have support groups that you can attend during treatment, which your healthcare team will direct you to.

Supporting your loved one during their treatment

We understand that helping your loved one during a cancer diagnosis can feel daunting.

It usually involves a blend of emotional, practical, and physical support. It's valuable to offer a listening ear, allowing them to express their feelings and fears without judgment, and affirming that you're there for them through this challenging time.

Practical support can be just as valuable. This can involve helping with daily tasks, attending medical appointments, and assisting in research of their condition if they need more information.

Encouraging your loved one to lead a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and gentle exercise can also be beneficial – and it helps to lead by example. Importantly, respecting their decisions about treatment and care, providing reassurance of your unwavering support, and reminding them of their strength and resilience can help maintain their spirits.

Remember, it’s also essential to take care of your own wellbeing and seek support for yourself to be the strongest support system for your loved one.

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How do I book an appointment?

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.