WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER
- Prostate cancer rates in Ireland are the highest in Europe and amongst the highest in the world
- 1 in 8 men in Ireland will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, this is comparable to a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, which is 1 in 9
- Prostate cancer is over 90% curable -if detected and treated in its earliest stages
- In 2010, 3,125 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland a small increase on 3,079 in 2009.
- Over 500 men die of prostate cancer in Ireland every year
Only men have a prostate gland. It is the size of a walnut and its main function is to help make semen.
The prostate is underneath the bladder and surrounds the tube that men pass urine through (the urethra).
Normally the growth of all cells is carefully controlled in the body. As cells die, they are replaced in an orderly fashion. Cancer can develop when cells start to grow in an uncontrolled way. If this happens in the prostate gland, prostate cancer can develop.
Prostate cancer can grow slowly or very quickly. Most prostate cancer is slow-growing to start with and may never cause any symptoms or problems in a man's lifetime. However, some men will have cancer that is more aggressive or 'high risk.' This needs treatment to help prevent or delay it spreading outside the prostate gland.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PROSTATE CANCER
Men with prostate cancer may have no symptoms at all. If a man does have symptoms, they may be mild and happen over many years. When they do occur, symptoms can be similar to non-cancerous prostate problems such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) or prostatitis. For some men the first noticeable symptoms are from prostate cancer which has spread to their bones.
The following may be signs of a prostate problem such as prostate cancer:
- A weak urine flow
- Needing to urinate more often, especially at night
- A feeling that your bladder has not emptied properly
- Difficulty starting to pass urine
- Dribbling urine
- Needing to rush to the toilet
If men experience any of these symptoms or have any questions about their risk of prostate cancer they should visit their GP.
In Ireland, 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Older men are more at risk.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men over the age of 50 and your risk increases with age. If you are under 50 then your risk of getting prostate cancer is very low. Younger men can be affected, but this is rare
Men living in Western countries are more likely to get prostate cancer than men in South and East Asian countries. This may be because of the Western diet, which contains less fruit and vegetables and more dairy, red meat, sugar and processed foods. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with a wide variety of foods, including plenty of fruit and vegetables, may help to prevent prostate cancer.
The purpose of screening is to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages, before any symptoms have developed.
Typically, prostate cancer that’s detected by screening is in the very early-stages and can be treated most effectively. A doctor can screen for prostate cancer quickly and easily in their office using two tests:
The PSA Blood Test
PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and released in very small amounts into the bloodstream. When there’s a problem with the prostate—like the development and growth of prostate cancer—more and more PSA is released. It eventually reaches a level where it can be easily detected in the blood. During a PSA test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm, and the level of PSA is measured.
The Digital Rectal Exam
During a DRE, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and examines the prostate for any irregularities in size, shape, and texture. Often, the DRE can be used by urologists to help distinguish between prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions.
The question of screening is a personal and complex one. It’s important for every man to talk with his doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for him.
There is no unanimous opinion in the medical community regarding the benefits of prostate cancer screening. Those who advocate regular screening believe that finding and treating prostate cancer early offers men more treatment options with potentially fewer side effects.
Ultimately, decisions about screening should be individual and based on a man’s level of risk, overall health, and life expectancy, as well as his desire for eventual treatment if he is diagnosed with prostate cancer. When to start screening is generally based on individual risk, with age 40 being a reasonable time to start screening for those at highest risk (genetic predispositions or strong family histories of prostate cancer at a young age). For otherwise healthy men at high risk (positive family history or African American men), starting at age 40-45 is reasonable.
It’s important for men to create a proactive prostate health plan based on your lifestyle and family history, as well as to discuss these tests with your doctor to make the screening decisions that are best for you.
To find out more about prostate cancer contact the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie.