Information on Prostate Cancer:
Unlike most other types of cancer, prostate cancer is often present in small amounts within the prostate with no ill effects. The difference is that this type of cancer often remains dormant for some time before it develops into something more serious. Approximately 30% of men over 50 years old have cancerous cells within their prostate. These cancerous cells often grow so slowly that they never result in any physical symptoms, but on occasion the cancer can grow rapidly and travel to other parts of the body in the blood stream.
The causes of prostate cancer
The cause of prostate cancer is not fully understood, but there are a number of risk factors that can influence how likely you are to develop this cancer:
- Being over 50 years old – very few men under 50 develop this type of cancer,
- Living on a diet with a high animal fat content,
- Having relatives who currently have or have previously had prostate cancer,
- Your ethnic origin may also play a part in your level of risk – for example, Afro-Caribbean men are more likely develop prostate cancer than Asian men.
The symptoms of prostate cancer
Prostate cancer can present itself with any of the following symptoms:
- Having difficulty urinating.
- Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night.
- On rare occasions, having blood in the urine.
The above symptoms are not restricted to prostate cancer, they can also occur in the case of benign prostatic enlargement. However, if you exhibit any of the above symptoms, please consult your doctor immediately. Early detection could save your life.
It is also important to realise that you will only have these detectable symptoms when prostate cancer has become advanced enough to put pressure on the urethra. On some occasions, the first symptoms of an aggressive prostate cancer are aching hips or back, caused by the cancer having spread to the bones.
As with any cancer, early detection is the key to successful treatment. Look out for any symptoms. You may also consider testing on an annual basis, as a measure to detect any abnormal cell growth early.
Methods of diagnosis
Having reported your symptoms to your GP, the two initial tests for diagnosing prostate cancer are a PSA blood test and a rectal examination to feel for any abnormalities.
The PSA test detects and monitors your level of prostate specific antigen – a substance that is found in your blood, (having been released by your prostate), that increases in the presence of prostate cancer. Unfortunately, this test is not conclusive, because other conditions such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) can elevate your PSA level – but it is still a good indicator.
If either of these initial tests indicates a potential case of prostate cancer, further tests will have to be carried out at your local hospital. These can include any of the following:
- Biopsy of the prostate.
- Cystoscopy – where the doctor examines the urethra and bladder through a telescopic tube to detect any blockages.
- CT scan or CAT scan.
- Intravenous urogram.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI or NMR scan).
- Trans-rectal ultrasound scan.
- X-rays – to see if there has been any spread of the cancer to other parts of the body, especially the bones.
- Isotope bone scan – a radioactive substance is injected into a vein and the whole body is scanned to highlight any areas of abnormal bone. Bone scans can detect cancer earlier than conventional X-rays.