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Prostate Cancer Awareness

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

What is Prostate Cancer?

Put simply, prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland — which is roughly the size of a walnut (though it gets bigger with age), and sits at the base of the bladder. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with around 12,000 people dying from the illness every year. However, survival rates are generally high, particularly if the cancer is spotted early. 

It is important to note that anyone born male, including trans women and non-binary people, could be at risk of developing the illness.

What are the signs & symptoms?

It may be surprising, but in many cases there are no obvious symptoms in the early stages of development. This means right now there are men in the UK living with prostate cancer without even realising it. 

Symptoms usually appear when the cancer has grown enough to put pressure on the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. 

These symptoms can include:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • A painful or burning sensation while peeing or ejaculating
  • Finding blood in your semen or pee
  • Frequent peeing (particularly during the night)
  • Difficulty in starting to pee
  • Feeling that your bladder isn’t fully empty

What are the causes?

It’s not known exactly what causes prostate cancer to begin to develop, but the cancer itself is caused by changes in the DNA of normal prostate cells – which can then multiply out of control.

The following risk factors identify who is most at risk:

  • Age – most men diagnosed with prostate cancer are aged 50+, and it is most common in men aged between 75 and 79 years.
  • Family history & genetics – you are up to two and a half times more likely to develop prostate cancer if your father or brother have had it, this may be because you’ve inherited the same faulty genes.
  • Ethnicity – black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than white men. Asian men are the least likely to develop the illness. 

When should you visit a doctor?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you’re worried you may have prostate cancer then see your GP immediately.

The likelihood is that your symptoms are caused by something else, but if it is prostate cancer, your chances of successful treatment are much higher the earlier it is found. 

Your GP will probably:

  • ask for a urine sample to rule out an infection being the cause of your symptoms
  • take a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test
  • perform a digital rectal examination by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum

Do not be embarrassed – your GP is a qualified health professional that has dealt with intimate issues for many years. 

One moment of slight discomfort could save your life. 

How do I choose a treatment?

Treatment is dependent on your personal circumstances. For many, treatment isn’t necessary until the cancer has grown large enough to cause symptoms. 

If you require treatment, your doctors will help you decide which is suitable by considering the following: 

  • the size of the cancer
  • how far the cancer has spread
  • your general health
  • the side effects of each treatment
  • how you feel about the different treatments

Can I live a normal life with prostate cancer?

There’s no shame in admitting it – being diagnosed with any type of cancer is scary, and it may make you feel any number of ways, these could include being: 

  • frightened
  • angry and resentful towards others
  • confused
  • numb
  • depressed
  • anxious

The most important thing to bear in mind is that you are not alone, your friends and family will be there to support you. 

If you want to speak with people that have gone through, or are going through, a similar experience to yourself then you can find prostate cancer support groups across the UK.

Sharing your experience with others, and emphasising with other people can help you begin to understand your feelings and improve your overall wellbeing.

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