We chat to Doctor Ali Hasan about the prostate cancer symptoms to be aware of and the steps you should take if you want to find out more…

According to Cancer Research UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer for males in the UK, accounting for one in four new cancer cases in men in 2016.

But, thanks to improvements in diagnosis and awareness-raising campaigns like Movember, survival rates have tripled in the last 40 years.

So, what are the symptoms and when should you get tested? We ask Dr Ali Hasan, Vitality Clinical Operations Director.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland that’s usually the size of a walnut for a man in his 20’s and grows slowly as men age. The gland sits under the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that men urinate and ejaculate through.

The main function of the prostate is to secrete prostate fluid, one of the components of semen. It’s the muscles of the prostate gland that also help to propel semen into the urethra during ejaculation.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs in a similar way to other cancers – cells in the prostate reproduce faster and in a more disordered manner than normal, resulting in a tumour.

Some prostate cancer grows too slowly to cause any problems and some people who are diagnosed  may never need any treatment. Some men will have prostate cancer that is more likely to spread. More aggressive types of prostate cancer, if untreated, may spread from the prostate to the lymph nodes and bones.

What symptoms do you need to look out for?

Often, with early stage cancer, there may be no symptoms. But, there are a few early signs which you should seek medical advice for if you experience them. Having these signs merits seeing a healthcare professional, but does not mean you have prostate cancer and can be a sign of many other conditions, as well as prostate cancer. These signs are:

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine.
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Painful or burning urination.
  • Difficulty having an erection.
  • Painful ejaculation.
  • Blood in urine or semen.
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.

BPH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia), also called prostate enlargement, is another common prostate condition. This is a noncancerous condition where men experience an increase in the size of the prostate gland.

What should you do if you experience any of these symptoms?

If you experience any of these symptoms or feel concerned, you should talk to your doctor. They will ask how long you have been experiencing symptoms, in addition to other lifestyle questions. They may also suggest tests.

What does the test involve?

There’s no definitive test for prostate cancer. But there are a number of steps your doctor is likely to discuss with you. These may include:
• A urine sample to check for infection.
• A blood sample to test your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This is a PSA test.
• They may examine your prostate by inserting a gloved finger into your bottom. This is called a digital rectal examination.
• They may also talk to you about lifestyle factors that may affect your chance of having prostate cancer.

What are the lifestyle factors that increase your risk?

There are few modifiable lifestyle factors which can be changed to reduce your risk. Stopping smoking and reducing excess weight reduces your risk of prostate cancer, and most other cancers too. Other risk factors include:

  • Age: prostate cancer is more common in older men.
  • Ethnicity: prostate cancer is more common in black-African men.
  • Family history: your risk of prostate cancer is higher if you have a close relative, such as a brother or father, who has had prostate cancer.
  • Height: taller men have a higher risk than shorter men of getting a faster growing (high grade) prostate cancer.

What else would you say to men with health concerns?

Men are sometimes less likely to go to the doctor if they have any health issues. It’s important to be proactive about your health and seek peace of mind if you have symptoms or concerns. With any health issue, early diagnosis can be very helpful, and that’s exactly the same with prostate health. As I mentioned previously, not all symptoms may be attributed to prostate cancer, but it’s important to get the right diagnosis.

Find out more about Vitality’s cancer cover here.

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