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Prostate Cancer by Dr Rob Hicks

The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut and produces the liquid that nourishes, protects and carries sperm on ejaculation. It's located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

Who's affected?

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK, accounting for almost a quarter of male cancers. Each year, nearly 32,000 men in the UK are diagnosed and more than 10,000 die from the disease.

Cases are rare in men aged under 50, but it becomes more common as they grow older.

Having a father or brother with prostate cancer increases the risk of a man developing the condition.

The illness is more common in men of African-Caribbean or African-American descent and in western countries.

What are the symptoms?

Often prostate cancer doesn't have any symptoms, but when they do occur they may include:

  • The need to urinate more frequently
  • Disturbed sleep because of the need to urinate
  • Difficulty or pain when passing water
  • Delay or hesitancy before urinating
  • A feeling that the bladder has not completely emptied
  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, pelvis and hips

It's important to be aware that there are a number of other, non-cancerous medical conditions that may also cause these symptoms.

In advanced prostate cancer, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Pain in the loins, pelvis or lower back
  • Blood in the urine or semen

Can it be prevented?

A healthy, low-fat diet may help to prevent prostate cancer, and vitamin E, selenium and lycopene (found in tomatoes) may offer protection.

How is it diagnosed?

If diagnosed early, treatment can be quite successful. Therefore, it's important to be aware of the symptoms and to see a GP as early as possible. Currently in the UK there are no routine screening programmes for prostate cancer.

A GP will perform a digital rectal examination (DRE) and arrange for any blood tests (for example, a prostate specific antigen or PSA test), or other tests, such as x-rays or scans, that may be necessary.

A specialist may then arrange a biopsy of the prostate. This should indicate whether or not prostate cancer is present and, if so, whether or not it's aggressive. These results will influence the types of treatment available.

What's the treatment?

Treatment depends on a number of factors, primarily whether the cancer is contained within the prostate (localised) or has spread around the body (advanced).

Localised disease, where the cancer is small and contained, is generally managed by observation ('watchful waiting'), surgery to remove the prostate (radical prostatectomy), brachytherapy (radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate) or IMRT (highly focused radiotherapy).

Other new treatments include high-frequency ultrasound (HIFU) and cryotherapy.

Advanced disease is often treated using hormone therapy, reducing the amount of testosterone in the body to slow down or stop the growth of the cancer cells.

Advice and support

Prostate Cancer Charity (UK)
Tel: 0800 074 8383
Email: info@prostate-cancer.org.uk
Website: www.prostate-cancer.org.uk


From http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/prostatecancer1.shtml

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