Every year in the UK, more than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer – that’s 129 males every day. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. However, the good news is that in many cases the disease is treatable, especially if caught early enough. It’s estimated that around 400,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is usually the size and shape of a walnut, and grows bigger as you age. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate’s main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm. The most common prostate problems are an enlarged prostate, prostatitis and prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer risk factors
The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown, however anything that raises your chances of getting a disease such as cancer, is known as a risk factor. Some risk factors, like lifestyle choices, can be altered. There are three main risk factors for getting prostate cancer, which are things that you can’t change. These are:
- Age – Prostate cancer is uncommon in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.
- Ethnicity – Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. It’s not known why, but it might be linked to genes. In the UK, about 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
- Family history – Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor.
Many men with early prostate cancer don’t have signs or symptoms. One reason for this is the way the cancer grows. You’ll usually only get early symptoms if the cancer grows near the tube you urinate through (the urethra) and presses against it, changing the way you urinate. However, because prostate cancer usually starts to grow in a different part (usually the outer part) of the prostate, early prostate cancer doesn’t often press on the urethra and cause symptoms.
If you do notice changes in the way you urinate, this can also be a sign of a very common non-cancerous problem called an enlarged prostate or another health problem. However, it’s always a good idea to get any changes checked out by a doctor.
Potential changes include:
- A weak flow when you urinate
- Difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
- A feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- Dribbling urine after you finish urinating
- Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
- A sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.
If prostate cancer breaks out of the prostate (locally advanced prostate cancer) or spreads to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer), it can cause other symptoms, including:
- Back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Problems getting or keeping an erection.
There is no single, definitive test for prostate cancer. The first step is to visit a doctor who will discuss the pros and cons of each with you and is likely to do the following:
- Request a urine sample to check for infection
- Take a blood sample to test your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) – called PSA testing
- Examine your prostate by inserting a gloved finger into your bottom – called a digital rectal examination.
If needed, your GP might refer you for additional tests which could include a Trans-rectal Ultrasound scan (TRUS) biopsy, PCA3 (prostate cancer antigen 3) test or a Multi-parametric MRI scan.
At Private GP Extra, patients have access to highly experienced GPs across the North West of England, at a time to suit them. Our doctors provide a personalised service, with continuity of care, for every person and can also offer a smooth and rapid onward referral to a prostate cancer specialist, if required. To book an appointment with one of our GPs, please visit https://www.privategpextra.com/appointments/ or call 0161 428 4464.