Be aware of prostate cancer
March is prostate cancer awareness month – a national campaign the urges men to be aware of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer.
Across the UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. 47,000 are diagnosed with the disease every year. 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
What is prostate cancer
Prostate cancer develops when the cells in the prostate begin growing in an uncontrolled way. It often begins slowly and for many living with the disease it may never even cause any problems.
It’s most likely to develop in men over the age of 50 and in many cases where prostate cancer develops later in life men will outlive the cancer.
In other instances, prostate cancer is likely to spread and needs to be treated – if the cancer advances beyond the prostate it can become much more serious.
Recognising signs and symptoms
Prostate cancer can go untreated for a long time because there often aren’t any recognisable symptoms.
One of the most telling signs of changes to the prostate is urinary problems. They may be mild or develop over several years. If you are having urinary problems it isn’t necessarily a sign of prostate cancer, and may simply point to a benign prostate problem, but at this stage it’s important to raise your concerns with your GP. Changes include:
• Difficulty starting to urinate, difficulty emptying your bladder
• A weak flow
• Feeling your bladder hasn’t emptied
• A sudden urge to urinate, leaking before you get to the toilet
If prostate cancer spreads beyond the prostate, it can cause other symptoms including:
• Back, hip or pelvis pain
• Blood in urine or semen
• Difficulty getting or keeping an erection
• Unexplained weight loss
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms make an appointment to see your GP. The symptoms can also be caused by other things, so they may want to run tests to determine the cause of the problem.
Testing for prostate cancer
There are a number of tests and checks that can help identify or eliminate the possibility of prostate cancer.
The PSA test is among the most common – it’s a simple blood test that can be done at your GP’s office and measures the amount of PSA protein in your blood. A raised level suggests a problem with your prostate.
A digital rectal examination can also happen at your GP’s office, where they will feel the prostate to see if it’s enlarged, hard or lumpy. The DRE is not definitive; because the doctor or nurse won’t be able to feel the whole prostate, sometimes those with prostate cancer will have a prostate that feels normal.
You may then be recommended for further tests, usually at your local hospital. These can include a prostate biopsy, CT scan or MRI scan.
What can you do to reduce your risk of prostate cancer?
While there are lots of scare stories and misconceptions out there about cancer, there are most definitely things you can be doing to reduce your risk, highlights Professor Ahmed, many of which revolve around having a healthy lifestyle. Here are four key ways you can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer:
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
This means plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fibre, starchy foods, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. Some foods are especially prostate-healthy, such as brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli), cooked tomatoes, green tea, mixed nuts and pomegranate juice. These produce antioxidants that protect prostate tissue.
2. Exercise regularly
Aim to do 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise on five days of the week. Aerobic exercise is best, such as swimming, jogging, cycling and brisk walking.
3. Stop smoking
As with many cancers, smoking is a major risk factor. Try to steer clear of passive smoke too.
4. Stick to recommended alcohol limits
For men, this means not regularly drinking more than 14 units (which equates to six pints of lager or five pints of cider) per week – spread over the whole week (so no more than three to four units tops in a single day).
Are you prostate cancer aware? Share your experiences in the comments below
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