We live in an age where men are starting to realise the importance of looking after themselves and their health needs. Prostate disease has received a lot of press coverage and consequently creates anxiety in men who may have urinary symptoms. Many men are therefore asking: “Should I have my prostate checked?” At our prostate clinic we have a range of specialists that are able to help with a range of prostate conditions.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and generally affects men over the age of 50. Approximately one third of men over the age of 50 will have some cancer cells within their prostate and nearly all men over the age of 80 have a small area of prostate cancer.
These cancers usually grow very slowly and may never cause any problems, although in some cases the cancer can grow rapidly and spread to other parts of the body, particularly the bones.
Although the causes of prostate cancer are still unknown, there are some factors that are known to increase the chance of developing the disease.
Men are more likely to develop the disease if a close relative, such as a father, uncle or brother has had the disease. In addition, black men have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer and Asian men have a lower risk.
What are the symptoms?
Men with early prostate cancer may not have any symptoms, since these only occur when the cancer is large enough to put pressure on the urethra,. Men over 50 can often have an enlargement of the prostate which is due to a non-cancerous condition known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia [BPH].
The symptoms of both BPH and prostate cancer are similar and include:
- difficulty passing urine
- pain when passing urine
- passing urine more frequently than usual, especially at night
- bed wetting
- blood in the urine
Is there a screening programme in the UK?
Men in the UK are not routinely offered screening tests for prostate cancer at present. However, in both the USA and Austria the death rate from this disease has dropped for the first time in decades since the introduction of screening programmes; notably the PSA blood test. However, determining the cause of a drop in mortality from cancer is difficult so it is probably unlikely that a UK screening programme will be introduced in the near future.
What is PSA?
Prostatic Specific Antigens, PSA, is a protein that is produced by the prostate and is a normal component of the seminal fluid. It is normally found in the blood in small amounts. Men with prostate cancer usually have higher levels of PSA in their blood; usually the higher the level, the more likely they are to have cancer.
However, interpretation of the result can sometimes be difficult. This is because as men grow older, their PSA levels naturally increase. In addition, raised levels of PSA in the blood may also be found in several other conditions such as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, prostatitis [inflammation of the prostate], and even after physical exercise. Most enlargements of the prostate are not cancerous.
At our Prostate Clinic, we have a range of specialists in Urology and Urological Oncology that can assess the likelihood of prostate disease. A blood test in isolation can often be misleading, which can lead to distress. As such, if someone has symptoms, they should have a physical exam as well. This could also be followed-up by an ultrasound or an MRI.