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What you need to know about prostate cancer

Phil Day: Superintendent Pharmacist | minute read

One in eight men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime; it’s the most common form of cancer in men, with over 44,000 being diagnosed each year.

Many men don’t consider their prostate until something goes wrong. But it’s worth knowing what it is, what to look out for, and what to do if you’re worried.

What is the prostate and where is it found?

The prostate is a gland that is only found in men, and sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube that men ejaculate and urinate through). The prostate is about the size of a walnut – however, as you age, it can grow bigger.

Men aged over 50 and with a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Black men are also at a higher risk. Staying a healthy weight, keeping active, and eating a balanced diet could all help to reduce your risk of developing it.

Prostate cancer happens when there is an uncontrolled growth of cells within the prostate. Some forms of prostate cancer grow very slowly, and these may not cause many, or even any, problems. However, some forms can spread to other parts of the body.

What are the signs of prostate cancer?

The main symptoms associated with prostate cancer can be similar to other prostate problems such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), where the prostate is enlarged but is not cancerous, as well as other medical conditions such as diabetes or urinary infections.

These symptoms usually relate to urinary symptoms such as needing to pass urine more often, feeling like you have to strain to pass urine, or that it can take time for the flow of urine to start or weaker flow when you do start to pass urine.

Some men might feel they need to rush to the bathroom to pass urine and some might feel they are unable to empty their bladders fully. Rarely you may experience blood in the urine or semen or pain on passing water.

You can find more information about the signs of prostate cancer at the charity website: http://prostatecanceruk.org

How is prostate cancer treated?

Treatment options vary from ongoing monitoring of the prostate to treatment with chemo- or radiotherapy to radical surgery to remove the prostate. Monitoring the prostate can be done via the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test. This can help to detect changes in the size of the prostate, but does not specifically screen for cancer.

If you have been diagnosed with prostate or any other form of cancer, you are not alone; your GP can offer support and your hospital will have specialist nurses to talk to.

Charities like Prostate Cancer UK and Macmillan will support you and your family through your treatment.