Prostate Cancer- What should you look out for gentlemen? (and your ladies too!)
There are currently 36,000 men in the UK alone who discover they have prostate cancer each year. That is a shockingly large number, but the good news it, it can be treated if caught in the early stage. As you will discover from this article, getting to the point of diagnosis is not straightforwards.
As you age, the risk of developing prostate cancer increase so it is important to take care of yourself and see your Doctor is you are at all concerned. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK and occurs when the cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. You may be at greater risk if you are aged 50+, a close relative has had the prostate cancer or if you are of African/Afro-Carribbean origin.
Symptoms to keep an eye open for.
In the early stages of Prostate cancer, there are no symptoms, but some signs to look out for include;
- Needing to urinate far more frequently, especially at night time
- Finding it hard to start to urinate
- Not being able to pass urine at all when you have the urge to
- A weak or interrupted flow of urine and may be dribbling a little.
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in your back, hips or upper thighs. This may be put down to older age stiffness and not associated with prostate cancer symptoms and is, therefore, important.
It is slightly unhelpful that at present there is no single test for prostate cancer.there is no single, definitive test for prostate cancer, so your GP will discuss the pros and cons of the various tests with you to try to avoid you unnecessary anxiety.
Your doctor is likely to:
- ask for a urine sample to check for infection
- take a blood sample test your level of prostate-specific antigen which is a protein produced by the prostate gland. All men have a small amount of this in their blood, and it increases with age.Prostate cancer can increase the production of PSA, so the PSA test looks for raised levels of it in the blood as that may be a sign of the prostate cancer in its early stageHowever, PSA testing is not a specific test for prostate cancer. Most men who have prostate cancer will not have a raised protein level. More than 65% of men with a raised PSA will not have cancer, as they rise in all men as they get older.
Digital rectal examination (DRE)
Many people make light of this examination as no-one wants to think of a doctor examining your back passage! During a DRE, your GP will insert a lubricated and gloved finger into your rectum. The rectum is close to your prostate gland, so your GP can check to feel if the surface of the gland has changed. This will feel a little uncomfortable, but should not be painful.
During a DRE, your GP will insert a lubricated and gloved finger into your rectum. The rectum is close to your prostate gland, so your GP can check to feel if the surface of the gland has changed. This will feel a little uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassing but should not be painful.
Prostate cancer can make the gland hard and bumpy. However, in most cases, prostate cancer causes no changes to the gland and again a DRE may not be helpful in a positive diagnosis.
Your GP will assess your risk of having prostate cancer based on a number of factors, including your PSA levels, the results of your DRE, age, family history and ethnic group. If you are at risk, you should be referred to hospital to discuss the options of further tests.
During a TRUS biopsy, an ultrasound probe (a machine that uses sound waves to build a picture of the inside of your body) is inserted into your rectum. This allows the doctor or specialist nurse to see exactly where to pass a needle through the wall of your rectum to take small samples of tissue from your prostate.
Although it is more reliable than a PSA test, the TRUS biopsy can have problems. It can miss up to one in five cancers because the location of the cancer is unknown when it is carried out. The doctors can see the prostate using the ultrasound scan, but can’t see any tumours if they are present.
You may need another biopsy if your symptoms persist, or your PSA level continues to rise. Your doctor may request an MRI scan of the prostate before another biopsy.
The samples of tissue from the biopsy are studied in a laboratory. If cancerous cells are found, they can be studied further to see how quickly cancer will spread. This process is known as “staging and grading” and helps doctors to decide which treatment is the most appropriate.