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What are the symptoms of prostate cancer and how can we raise awareness?
Despite prostate cancer being one of the most common cancers in men in the UK1, it can be symptom-less and people can be unaware of the initial signs.
As part of Men's Health Awareness Month, BMI Healthcare wants to ensure that more people understand prostate cancer and know how to recognise the symptoms, so that diagnosis is more rapid and treatment is more successful.
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 it.2
Prostate cancer causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year and 1 in 8 men are expected to get prostate cancer3, but chances of survival are improved if the cancer is caught early.4
What are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?
Symptoms may not be noticeable until your prostate has enlarged and starts putting pressure on your urethra. The main symptoms 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 these symptoms, it may not mean that 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.5
If the cancer has spread, you may experience other symptoms alongside those listed above. These include bone and back pain, a 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 signs or symptoms, or if you have general concerns about your health.
What causes prostate cancer?
The exact cause of prostate cancer is not known, but men are more susceptible to it once over the age of 50.
If you have had a vasectomy, have a history of prostate cancer in your family, 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; Prostate cancer is more common in black-African men than white men. It is least common in Asian men.6
In 2015, guidelines were issued to help health professionals recognise the signs of prostate cancer and refer people for the right tests faster.
There are three main methods for testing for prostate cancer, but they do not provide a definitive diagnosis. Your doctor can test you for prostate cancer by taking a urine sample, a blood sample, or by performing a DRE – digital rectal examination (inserting a finger into your anus to check the surface of the prostate). This may be uncomfortable but should not be painful.
Your doctor may also perform a PSA test, which detects higher levels of protein in the blood that can be linked to prostate cancer. However, this is not a specific prostate cancer test and not all men experience a higher PSA as a symptom.
If your doctor is concerned about your symptoms, biopsy may be considered, where tissue samples will be obtained to look for cancerous cells. If these are found, more tests will be carried out.
As with all other cancers, early diagnosis is crucial.
Not all men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer require treatment straight away. Instead, men need to keep a close eye on their general health so that action can be taken if symptoms appear or the cancer worsens. This is known as 'watchful waiting' and 'active surveillance'.
Treatment is catered to the individual patient, so will depend on the type and size of the cancer, the grade or stage of the cancer, and whether the cancer has spread. Treatment will also depend on the patient's general health.
Speak to a BMI professional for further advice on the types of treatment for prostate cancer.
Survival rates and side effects of prostate cancer
Over 330,000 men are currently living with prostate cancer in the UK. The sooner the cancer is diagnosed, the longer the life expectancy of the patient.
- Around 90% of men diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 live for at least five more years, and around 65-90% of men live for at least ten more years
- Men diagnosed at stage 3 have an average 70-80% chance of living at least five more years
- Men diagnosed at stage 4 only have a 30% chance of living at least five more years.5
Side effects of prostate cancer and treatment can include erectile dysfunction, problems when urinating, extreme tiredness and changes to your sex drive. These side effects can be different for every individual, and there are a lot of support networks for men living with prostate cancer.
Moustaches at the ready...
You can do your bit to raise awareness and raise money for people suffering with prostate cancer and testicular cancer by taking part in Movember. The Movember Foundation has helped millions of people become more aware of men's cancers, mental health and suicide prevention. It raises money to develop medical treatments and support those who are victims of such health issues, and champions the movement of open and frank discussions about men's health.
The charity aims to prevent men from dying too young. Get your friends and family to sponsor your moustache growth and find out more with the Prostate Cancer UK charity.
To find out more call us on 0800 157 7747 or make an online enquiry.