Hundreds of thousands of prostate cancer survivors could be spared unnecessary worry following treatment, by being able to compare their experiences to those of other men*.
Movember’s "Men Like Me" online questionnaire, based on data gathered from 35,000 British men living with the disease, allows men to see how they are faring compared with others who have undergone similar treatments.
The simple online tool, which is now available to men in the UK, takes under 30 seconds to complete.
Men are asked five questions regarding the treatment they received, age range at diagnosis, stage the cancer was detected and any other health conditions they have such as heart disease or diabetes.
It then provides a set of insights drawn from men who have similar circumstances.
The results show the proportions of men who reported post-treatment side effects such as poor sexual function and urinary incontinence as well as indicating how much of an impact it was having on their quality of life.
Men can then print off the results and discuss them with their GP and if necessary, be referred for specialist help.
The "Men Like Me" questionnaire is backed by data collected by the Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis study (LAPCD) – the largest ever study of men living with the disease.
The study, funded by Movember in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, looked at the impact that prostate cancer had on physical health, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Published in the Lancet Oncology journal in March 2019, the research team found that 81 per cent of men were left with poor sexual function after treatment.
Paul Villanti, executive director of programs at Movember, said the "Men Like Me" questionnaire is one of a number of initiatives aimed at improving quality of life for men living with prostate cancer.
“We know that many men suffer in silence for years with post-treatment side effects such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence,” he said.
“Being able to compare their recovery with that of other men is useful. If their experience is similar to that of other patients, it may give them peace of mind and save them from unnecessary distress.
“However, for men whose symptoms are unusually severe, we hope it would prompt them to proactively address the problem and seek medical advice.” He added: “It’s really important that men don’t suffer in silence after cancer treatment and get the support they need because it can make a huge difference to their quality of life.”
Around 48,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year but the disease can vary widely**.
Treatments can cause life-changing and long-term side effects such as erectile dysfunction, incontinence or bowel problems. Although side effects may be temporary, lasting weeks or months, for some men they may be permanent.
For some men, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet or taking up pelvic floor exercises can help alleviate incontinence symptoms.
Men who use the "Men like Me" questionnaire are directed to tailored lifestyle advice on Movember’s True North website.
The advice is verified by an international panel of prostate cancer experts including Professor Caroline Moore, head of urology at University College London.
Professor Moore, chief investigator of the True North UK Post Surgery study, which followed the progress of over 1,000 men after surgery for prostate cancer, said: “After treatment for prostate cancer, men can experience problems with sexual function and passing urine.
“This True North tool will help men to see how their recovery after treatment compares to men who have had similar treatments. It will help to reassure those men with minor problems early in the recovery process that things will improve and help those men with more troublesome problems to find appropriate support.”
Heather Blake, Director of Support & Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “There are more than 400,000 men living with a prostate cancer diagnosis in the UK.
“Many of these men are living with side effects of treatment like incontinence or erectile dysfunction which can have a big impact on their health and wellbeing, it’s important men know that they are not alone and that there is help available.
“Empowering men to talk about their experiences is an essential part of our work with Movember and we hope this tool will give men the confidence they need to speak to their clinicians. They can also speak to Prostate cancer UK’s specialist nurses for free on 0800 074 8383.”
"Men Like Me" is available to access in the UK free online at truenorth.movember.com.
It is part of Movember’s global True North project which spans seven countries (including the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) and is aimed at improving quality of life for men with prostate cancer.