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All Things Men Should Know About Prostate Cancer

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Movember aims to raise awareness of the key health issues impacting men, helping them to identify symptoms and get diagnosed whilst their conditions are still treatable. 

One of the main focuses is prostate cancer, which is the most diagnosed form of cancer amongst men in the UK. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. 

Here, Dr. Rhianna McClymont, lead GP at the digital healthcare provider, Livi, reveals some of the key facts about the disease, including the main warning signs and what to do about them.  

Where the prostate is

According to Prostate Cancer UK (PCUK, prostatecanceruk.org), prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland, which is at the base of the bladder and is about the size of a walnut.

The prostate gland gets bigger as you age, and its main job is to make the thick white fluid that creates semen when mixed with sperm produced by the testicles.

Who’s at risk? 

The prostate is an organ that only men have, and its main function is to produce the white fluid which mixes with sperm to create semen. 

Dr. Rhianna said: “Although prostate cancer can affect men of any age, it’s most commonly diagnosed in older age groups, particularly over 50s.  

“Research has also found that men of an African, or African-Caribbean descent are also more at risk from the cancer compared to men from other ethnicities.” 

Not everyone needs treatment

Some prostate cancers grow too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live, and because of this, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment.

However, some prostate cancers grow quickly and are more likely to spread, so do need treatment.

What can increase the risk of prostate cancer? 

Dr Rhianna said: “There are various factors that can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, including family history. The risk increases if a male member of your family developed prostate cancer before the age of 60. 

“Another factor which can increase the risk is obesity, with NHS information suggesting that obesity may be linked to an increased likelihood of the development of prostate cancer.” 

What are the symptoms? 

Dr. Rhianna said: “Unfortunately, prostate cancer can often be symptomless, which is why it’s so important to have your prostate checked regularly as you get older.” 

When symptoms do appear, particularly as the illness becomes more advanced, they can include: 

  • Increased frequency in needing to urinate 
  • Difficulty when starting to pee, or a weak flow 
  • Feeling like your bladder hasn’t fully emptied 
  • Feeling an urgent need to urinate 

If symptoms do kick in, they’ll likely affect you when urinating

If the prostate does become enlarged, it may lead to an increased need to wee, straining while you wee, a weak flow, dribbling urine after you finish, and a feeling that your bladder hasn’t fully emptied.

PCUK says that while some men might have urinary problems, “these can be mild and happen over many years, and maybe a sign of a benign prostate problem, rather than prostate cancer.”

Another cause of such symptoms can be a non-cancerous enlarged prostate, which is very common. But anyone with any symptoms should get them checked by a GP.

Further symptoms include…

Other symptoms of prostate cancer can include lower back pain or rectal pain or discomfort, as well as difficulties relating to sex, such as blood in the semen, pain when ejaculating or erectile dysfunction.

Signs of more advanced cancer can include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, testicular pain and unintentional weight loss.

How is it tested? 

Dr. Rhianna said: “If you notice you have any symptoms related to prostate cancer, you might be offered a PSA, or Prostate Specific Antigen test. This is taken as a blood test and can indicate the presence of prostate cancer.  

“Your GP will also suggest an examination of your prostate, which is undertaken through a rectal exam.  

“If either or both of these tests indicate the possible presence of prostate cancer, then you will undertake an MRI scan to assess the prostate, and a biopsy will be used to officially diagnose the condition.” 

What are the treatment options? 

Dr. Rhianna said: “Treatment of prostate cancer depends largely on the severity of the condition, and how far advanced it is, as well as other factors including whether it has spread to other areas of your body, and your general health. 

“Treatment options are varied and include surgery to remove the prostate (a prostatectomy), radiotherapy, hormone therapy, or ‘watchful waiting’, where the cancer is considered to be relatively minor and poses little threat of spreading or developing further within the patient’s lifetime, so is left untreated but closely monitored.”  

Dr. Rhianna adds: “Movember has done a fantastic job of raising awareness of male-specific health conditions such as prostate cancer, and thankfully so, as it’s incredibly common, but often treatable if caught early enough.  

“The good news is that whilst the condition is common amongst men and potentially very serious, most patients diagnosed with it do survive.

This is why it’s so important for men to be aware of the signs and symptoms and understand the need to be checked as they get older.”  

For more information about prostate cancer, visit: https://www.livi.co.uk/your-health/prostate-cancer-a-doctors-guide/ 

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