WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?

The prostate is a male sex gland located underneath the bladder. It is about the size of a chestnut and is located around the tube (the urethra) which carries urine out of the bladder. The prostate produces a thick fluid that forms part of the semen.

Prostate cancer differs from most other cancers in the body, because small areas of cancer within the prostate are very common and may stay dormant for many years.

About one-third of men over the age of 50 have some cancer cells within their prostate and nearly all men over the age of 80 have a small area of prostate cancer.

Most of these cancers grow extremely slowly and so, particularly in elderly men, will never cause any problems. In a small proportion of men, the prostate cancer does grow more quickly and in some cases may spread to other parts of the body, particularly the bones.

Please consult your GP for advice or diagnosis.

WHO IS AT RISK?

All men are at risk for developing prostate cancer. About one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only one man in 34 will die of this disease. About 80 percent of men who reach age 80 have prostate cancer. Besides being male, there are other factors, such as age, race, and family history that may contribute to the risk.

AGE

The majority of men with prostate cancer are aged over 60 years and the disease is very rare in men under 50.

FAMILY HISTORY

Men with a brother or father who developed prostate cancer at a young age have an increased risk. Men with a family history of breast cancer also have an increased risk.

RACE

Prostate cancer is more common in men of African descent.

PROSTATE CANCER SYMPTOMS

One of the problems related to prostate cancer is that, in its early stages, it often does not cause symptoms.

When symptoms do occur they may include any of the following:

  • Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  • Passing urine more often and/or at night
  • Difficulty getting started and interruption of flow
  • Discomfort whilst passing urine
  • A feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain or stiffness in the back, hips or pelvis

These symptoms can be caused by other conditions that are less serious than prostate cancer. Please discuss any worries or concerns with your GP.

PROSTATE CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Ultrasound

A small probe is inserted into the back passage and a scan taken to show the exact size of the prostate.

Rectal Examination (DRE)

Your doctor can actually feel the size of the prostate gland through the wall of the back passage. This is called a Digital Rectum Examination. However, an enlarged prostate does not necessarily indicate prostate cancer.

TRUS – (Trans-Rectal Ultra Sound Guided Biopsy)

The biopsy involves taking a tiny sample of tissue from the prostate using a probe which is inserted into the back passage and the tissue then analysed.

The PSA test

The PSA tests the level of Prostate Specific Antigen in the blood. A high reading suggests prostate cancer but could be caused by other conditions. Up to 1 in 5 men with prostate cancer will have a normal PSA result.

A positive biopsy is needed to confirm cancer. If prostate cancer is diagnosed, it is not necessarily life threatening and treatment many not be required – as most men diagnosed with early prostate cancer following a positive PSA test would be expected to have slowly growing cancer which should not cause any problems during their natural lifespan.

PROSTATE CANCER TREATMENTS

Some prostate cancers are so slow-growing that no treatment is needed. Instead, a policy of watchful waiting is employed. This involves regular check-ups to monitor the disease and check for any change in condition.

When more active treatment is required, there are currently four main options:

Surgery

The entire prostate gland is removed in an operation called a prostatectomy.

Radiotherapy

High energy rays are used to destroy the cancer cells.

Hormone Treatment

Drugs can be used to lower the level of testosterone in the blood, which has the effect of slowing or stopping the growth of the cancerous tumour. However, some prostate tumours develop the ability to grow without testosterone.

Brachytherapy

A treatment where radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the tumour.

FAQ

How common is prostate cancer?

Over 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It has become the most common cancer in men overtaking lung cancer. With PSA testing on the increase and an ageing population, incidence is predicted to rise ahead of breast cancer over the next decade.

Who does prostate cancer affect?

95% of all prostate cancer patients are aged between 45 and 80. The majority of men are aged over 60.

What causes prostate cancer?

Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of developing it? Men with a brother or father with prostate cancer have an increased risk. When symptoms occur they may include difficulties in urinating or pain and/or stiffness in the lower back and hips. However these symptoms are more commonly caused by other conditions. If you have concerns, you should consult with your GP.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of prostate cancer is important for successful treatment. Diagnosis methods include the PSA Blood Test, which tests the level of rostate Specific Antigen in the blood; digital rectal examinations to feel the size of the prostate gland and biopsies which take tiny samples of tissue from the prostate.

How is prostate cancer treated?

Some prostate cancers grow so slowly that no treatment is needed. Instead, a policy of watch and wait is employed to monitor the condition. When more active treatment is required surgery, radiotherapy, hormone therapy or a combination of these treatments are used.

What You Should Do

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

Will any treatment affect my sex drive and will I still be able to father children?

Different treatments for prostate cancer can cause impotence, reduced ejaculation, a lowered sex drive, urinary incontinence, bowel problems, hot flushes and sweats and tiredness. Surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy all have different side effects which need to be considered in any decisions about treatment

Is the chance of developing prostate cancer influenced by dietary or environmental factors?

Eating a diet high in animal fat and low in fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and being exposed to cadmium (a heavy metal) or ‘radiation’ have been identified as possible risk factors. Some preliminary research suggests that Lycopene (the compound that gives the tomato its red colour), selenium and vitamin E in the diet could play a preventative role in the development.

What You Should Do?

To find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and who’s most at risk.

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