What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that affects men. It develops in the prostate gland, which sits under the urinary bladder, in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men, with around 36,000 cases diagnosed in the UK every year, which accounts for around 1 in 4 new cases of cancer in men.
What are the causes of prostate cancer?
The specific cause of prostate cancer is unknown. However, a number of risk factors are thought to play a part. These include:
- Age: prostate cancer is rare among young men, with more than 50 percent of cases involving men over the age of 70
- Ethnicity: it is not known why but prostate cancer is more common in men of African heritage, with black men of African heritage more prone to developing prostate cancer than white or Asian men
- Diet: there is some evidence to suggest that eating a lot of dairy foods may increase your risk of prostate cancer; however, research in this area is ongoing
- Family history of breast or prostate cancer
Symptoms of prostate cancer
In many cases it takes a long time for symptoms to develop and in the early stages they may remain undetected. Symptoms are similar to those caused by hypertrophy of the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia, and include:
- Trouble passing urine
- Urinating more frequently (especially at night)
- Blood in the urine (this is rare)
- Pain during urination
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
If you notice the above symptoms or you feel unwell you should visit your GP. Your GP will ask questions about your symptoms and they may also examine you (this will involve examining the prostate gland, which is accessed through the back passage). Your GP may also take a blood sample to test your Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) level, as a high level of PSA may be indicative of prostate cancer. If your test results are abnormal you will be referred to a cancer specialist for additional testing. Hospital tests may include repeat blood tests, rectal ultrasound scans and biopsy tests. The results of all these tests will be used to reach a diagnosis.
How is prostate cancer treated?
Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. Treatment for early prostate cancer usually involves surgery to get rid of the prostate gland, but if the cancer is more advanced hormone therapy or radiotherapy can be used or surgery.
What is the outlook for prostate cancer?
The outlook for prostate cancer is generally positive, because the cancer usually develops very slowly. Early diagnosis improves survival rates considerably and 99 percent of men with stage 1 and 2 prostate cancer will survive for at least 5 years after diagnosis.
Living with prostate cancer
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer is never easy and you can experience a whole range of emotions, as well as worrying about practical matters. Your care team will be there to offer advice and information, but it you need extra support or you want to speak to a third party you can get in touch with cancer charities in the UK.