Understanding prostate cancer: signs and symptoms

Recognising the symptoms of prostate cancer is vitally important. Consultant Urological Surgeon, Mr Jeetesh Bhardwa from BMI Bishops Wood Hospital, wants to see more men visiting their GP for a simple blood test and examination. Here's his advice.

Man listening to people

For the first time in the UK, the number of men dying from prostate cancer has overtaken the number of female deaths from breast cancer. It is now the third most common cancer to die from, after lung cancer and bowel cancer1.

Early detection can help to save lives. Take the test, whatever month it is.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Unfortunately, prostate cancer can be symptomless, so you may be unaware of the initial signs. In fact, symptoms may not be noticeable until your prostate has enlarged and starts putting pressure on your urethra.

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • Needing to urinate more often, such as throughout the night
  • Having to rush suddenly to the toilet
  • Feeling like your bladder hasn't completely emptied
  • Struggling to start urinating
  • Straining when you urinate or taking a long time
  • A weak flow of urine

If you experience any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. It could be that you simply have prostate enlargement, which is not a cancer, but a condition that is particularly common as men grow older.

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a gland which sits between the penis and the bladder, surrounding the urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder to your penis). Cancer in this area generally develops at a slow rate, so some men may not know that they have it2.

The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, but men become more susceptible once over the age of 50.

If you’ve had a vasectomy, have a family history of prostate cancer, or have been previously diagnosed with other cancers, you are also at a higher risk compared to those without this medical history.

Research has shown that ethnicity can also make a man more susceptible to prostate cancer, for instance, prostate cancer is more common in black-African men than white men3.

If the cancer has spread, you may experience other symptoms alongside those listed above. These include bone and back pain, loss of appetite, painful testicles, and weight loss that you cannot explain. It's important to get checked by your doctor if you have any of these symptoms, or if you have general concerns about your health.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

Seeing your doctor for a prostate cancer test is simple and straightforward. The most common test for prostate cancer is usually a blood test and an examination. It is a regular practice for your doctor, so there is no need to feel embarrassed or shy.

The steps to getting a diagnosis
  • The PSA blood test is a simple test which looks for a specific protein in your blood. This test is only an indicator of potential problems with the prostate, and does not necessarily mean you have cancer.
  • Your doctor is likely to also carry out a digital examination, which involves your doctor feeling inside the back passage. It usually takes less than a minute, is relatively painless and could save your life.
  • Prostate mapping is a form of biopsy that uses MRI imaging techniques. Prostate mapping is carried out by a Consultant Urologist, and gives them a more detailed image of the prostate, allowing them to take more targeted biopsies than in a typical ultrasound biopsy, thereby increasing the chances of making an accurate diagnosis.
  • Even newer MRI scanning techniques, known as MRI Ultrasound Fusion guided biopsy, can help Consultant Urologists identify nearly 90% of patients with high risk prostate cancer that need treatment and those that don’t need any further investigations4. This is known colloquially as ‘The Mannogram’, and is offered at selected BMI hospitals.

Can prostate cancer be treated?

There are now a range of options available for treating and managing prostate cancer. These include regular testing and monitoring of prostate cancer that hasn’t spread (known as active surveillance), focal treatments, which target only the tumour and not the surrounding prostate treatment, surgery and medication.

Side effects of prostate treatment

Side effects of treatment vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Problems when urinating
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Changes to your sex drive

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, or have any worries concerns at all, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your GP for an examination.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.

2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cancer-of-the-prostate/Pages/Introduction.aspx 
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3170971/
4 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S228788821500063X


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