What can men do if they’re worried about prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer kills one man in the UK every 45 minutes. It can be treated if it is caught in time, but it often doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, and there’s currently no nation-wide screening programme. What’s more, many men are reluctant to get checked out.
So what can you do if you’re worried?
The prostate gland
The prostate is a gland that creates about 50 per cent of semen. Past the age of 50, it’s common for this gland to swell. In some cases an enlarged prostate can be a sign of cancer.
One of the only signs of prostate cancer experienced by some men is difficulty passing urine. This can occur because the prostate surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body, and as it swells it squeezes the urethra, which can make it difficult to wee.
You are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer if you are over 50, black or if it runs in your family.
There is no single test for prostate cancer, but there are a few things your GP can to do identify a problem.
Your GP can take a blood sample and have it analysed for a hormone called Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA. High levels of PSA can be a sign of cancer, but the test is far from conclusive; for example, you can have a low or normal PSA reading and still have a prostate cancer. So while it can be a useful clue, other tests are needed and you should talk to your GP about whether a PSA test is right for you.
Your GP might also perform a manual examination of your prostate gland. While the thought of this is unpleasant – inserting a finger up the back passage to feel the size, shape and texture of the prostate – it’s quick and very rarely causes any pain. The prostate should be round and smooth, but if it’s misshapen or rough in texture, this could be a sign of cancer.
Based on these results a biopsy may be recommended, in which a small portion of the prostate is taken and analysed to see if it’s cancerous. If this is recommended to you, make sure you ask about the advantages and disadvantages.
If prostate cancer is detected early enough, survival rates are as high as 90 per cent. There is a range of treatments available. Often the cancer is slow-growing and will just be monitored, although radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be deployed. In some cases the prostate can be removed entirely.