Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects men and there are over 40,000 men diagnosed with it in the UK every year. The symptoms are quite hard to detect, though, because they develop quite slowly. The first sign of the cancer is normally when a man has difficulty urinating, or the frequency in the need to urinate changes. These are not always signs of prostate cancer, but if a man experiences any symptoms like these, then they should visit their doctor for a check-up. Here are ten facts about prostate cancer that every man should be aware of.
1. What type of man is most at risk?
The precise causes of prostate cancer are unknown. It can affect men of any age, but it is more prevalent in older men. It is more common in African and Afro-Caribbean men and it is less common in Asian men, but the reasons for this are also unknown. People who have fathers or brothers who have a history of the cancer are also statistically more at risk.
2. What is the prostate gland for?
The prostate is a gland that is about the size of a walnut. It sits between the bladder and the penis and its function is to produce the fluid that is ejaculated with the sperm in semen. This fluid is there to nourish and to protect the sperm.
3. What age groups is it most common in?
It is most common in men who are over the age of 65 and it is very rare for men under the age of 40 to develop it. The disease is very common, but not always fatal. Most prostate cancers are very slow developing and in one study of autopsies, it was found that 75% of men over the age of 75, who had died of other causes, did have the cancer.
4. How do they test for prostate cancer?
The usual initial test is a physical rectal examination. This can then be followed up with a blood test that is called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The blood test can be misleading though, because there can be other causes of raised PSA levels.
5. It does not always need to be treated
Owing to the fact that many types of prostate cancers progress so slowly, it doesn’t always need to be treated straight away. In some cases, men can elect not to have immediate treatment in favour of close monitoring instead. This is known as active surveillance.
6. Why are men not screened for prostate cancer?
There is an ongoing debate as to the effectiveness of regular screening of men for prostate cancer. Early diagnosis does make treatment easier, but the tests are not 100% reliable, so regular screening could lead to unnecessary surgical procedures being carried out on some men.
7. How can you protect yourself against prostate cancer?
It is more common in overweight men who eat a poor diet and take don’t take regular exercise. It is also more prevalent in meat eaters than it is in vegetarians. As with most cancers, the best advice is to stay fit and eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables.
8. Prostate cancer is survivable
Like many other forms of cancer, with modern treatment methods and because it can be so slow to develop, prostate cancer is certainly not always fatal. It is, in fact, perfectly possible to live with the cancer and experience no symptoms at all for many years.
9. How do they treat it?
Treatment is very often best delayed, but where there is a danger of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body, treatments include radiotherapy, hormone treatment and the surgical removal of the prostate gland.
10. Always see a doctor if you are unsure
If you have difficulty urinating, or if you feel need to urinate more often, you should visit your doctor for a check-up. While men can live with prostate cancer for many years, if you have developed the cancer, you will need to be closely monitored,even if you don’t need any other form of immediate treatment.