Prostate cancer 

Introduction 

Black men and prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to affect men. A consultant urologist describes what the prostate is and how it functions. He explains who is most at risk of developing the cancer, what you can do to minimise your risk and how to check for early signs.

Media last reviewed: 23/04/2014

Next review due: 23/04/2016

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men. About the size of a satsuma, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.

The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. It produces a thick white fluid that is mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles, to create semen.

Prostate health

Every man has one, it's important to their sex life, yet few men know anything about their prostate or what can go wrong with it

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs you have it for many years.

Symptoms often only become apparent when your prostate is large enough to affect the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).

When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling your bladder has not fully emptied.

However, these signs do not mean you have prostate cancer. It is more likely they are caused by something else, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as BPH or prostate enlargement).

Read more about the symptoms of prostate cancer.

Why does prostate cancer happen?

The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown. However, a number of things can increase your risk of developing the condition.

The chances of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older. Most cases develop in men aged 50 or older.

For reasons not yet understood, prostate cancer is more common in men of African-Caribbean or African descent, and less common in men of Asian descent.

Men who have first degree male relatives (such as a father or brother) affected by prostate cancer are at slightly increased risk as well.

Read more about the causes of prostate cancer.

Tests for prostate cancer

There is no single test for prostate cancer. All the tests used to help diagnose the condition have benefits and risks, which your doctor should discuss with you.

The most commonly used tests for prostate cancer are blood tests, a physical examination of your prostate (known as a digital rectal examination or DRE) and a biopsy.

The blood test, known as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, measures the level of PSA and may help detect early prostate cancer. Men are not routinely offered PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer as results can be unreliable.

This is because the PSA blood test is not specific to prostate cancer. PSA can be raised due to a large non-cancerous growth of the prostate (BPH), a urinary tract infection or inflammation of the prostate as well as prostate cancer. Raised PSA levels also cannot tell a doctor whether a man has life-threatening prostate cancer or not. This means that a raised PSA can lead to unnecessary tests and treatment.

However, you can ask to be tested for prostate cancer once the benefits and risks have been explained to you.

Read more about diagnosing prostate cancer and PSA screening for prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer treated?

For many men with prostate cancer, treatment is not immediately necessary.

If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, a policy of "watchful waiting" or "active surveillance" may be adopted. This involves carefully monitoring your condition.

Some cases of prostate cancer can be cured if treated in the early stages. Treatments include surgically removing the prostate, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

Some cases are only diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer has spread. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, typically the bones, it cannot be cured and treatment is focused on prolonging life and relieving symptoms.

All treatment options carry the risk of significant side effects, including erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. For this reason, many men choose to delay treatment until there is a risk the cancer might spread.

Read more about treating prostate cancer.

Living with prostate cancer

As prostate cancer usually progresses very slowly, you can live for decades without symptoms or needing treatment.

Nevertheless, it can have an effect on your life. As well as causing physical problems such as erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, a diagnosis of prostate cancer can understandably make you feel anxious or depressed.

You may find it beneficial to talk about the condition with your family, friends, a family doctor and other men with prostate cancer.

Financial support is also available if prostate cancer reduces your ability to work.

Read more about living with prostate cancer.




Page last reviewed: 06/11/2012

Next review due: 06/11/2014

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Comments

The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

johnjudge said on 24 January 2014

The Guardin ran a article that USA Opko Health (opk) Claros machines are able to tell straight away whether you have cancer or not.

The 4Kscore is now being tested in the U.S. in a multi-center clinical validation study for the Company's proprietary 4Kscore.

The 4Kscore test is based on over a decade of research of a four kallikrein panel of biomarkers conducted by scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and leading research centers in Europe on over 10,000 patients.

The OPKO multi-center study is expected to generate data to support the launch of the 4Kscore™ test as a laboratory developed test through the Company's CLIA laboratory in Nashville, TN.

The Company has begun enrolling patients at the first of 13 sites across the United States and is planning to enroll more than 1,200 patients referred for a prostate biopsy over the course of the next few months.

NHS should adopt the test as a standard.

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Prostate Awareness said on 12 June 2012

MRI scanning of the Prostate and surrounding pelvic area could be better explained on the NHS website and could offer greater explanation of the types of equipment used in scanning or refer you to other sites.
My understanding is that many hospital MRI scanners currently work on 1.5 Tesla from Siemens, GE or Phillips for their imaging of your body. However with new technology and investment the NHS is installing T3 Tesla machines with greater imaging capacity but requiring greater technical skills on interpretation compared with 1.5 Tesla. I am happy to be corrected.
Click on the internet and websites from the above equipment suppliers and hospitals such as Barts and Cambridge and learn more about T3 technology and how you could potentially improve the diagnosis of your problems. Via the NHS or privately.
Lastly check out going dairy free for Prostate and Breast Cancer - visit www.cancersupportinternational.com and may you enjoy a good recovery.
Hope this is of benefit and comfort for you.

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Prostate Awareness said on 12 June 2012

MRI scanning of the Prostate and surrounding pelvic area could be better explained on the NHS website and could offer greater explanation of the types of equipment used in scanning or refer you to other sites.

My understanding is that many hospital MRI scanners currently work on 1.5 Tesla from Siemens, GE or Phillips for their imaging of your body. However with new technology and investment the NHS is installing T3 Tesla machines with greater imaging capacity but requiring greater technical skills on interpretation compared with 1.5 Tesla. I am happy to be corrected.

Click on the internet and websites from the above equipment suppliers and hospitals such as Barts and Cambridge and learn more about T3 technology and how you could potentially improve the diagnosis of your problems. Via the NHS or privately.
Lastly check out going dairy free for Prostate and Breast Cancer - visit www.cancersupportinternational.com and may you enjoy a good recovery.
Hope this is of benefit and comfort for you.

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Oween Avoc said on 09 June 2012

Anyone know of any London hospital which has male prostate specialist nurse team? I do not want to discuss some things with my female nurses.

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vic richards said on 23 March 2012

understand in lancet item ref asprin use for cancer i have postaste cancer can use of aspirin be benificvial to me

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MsJustice said on 08 February 2011

Could be linked to a new human retrovirus called XMRV. HIV is a type of retrovirus and it is lifelong.

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