Early diagnosis of cancer is the key to improving survival rates. This is an area where the NHS has been lagging behind when compared to other developed countries. Not surprisingly, the government is targeting improvements and rightly so. Clinical leadership is being promoted and doctors have been entrusted with the responsibility of increasing awareness in the population about different types of cancer.
In the United Kingdom, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year and around 10,000 men die of the disease annually. There are about 250,000 men currently known to be living with prostate cancer in the U.K. (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/prostate/)
If diagnosed early and the cancer is confined to the prostate and if the patient is suitable for radical surgery or radical radiotherapy, cure is possible.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
A number of men don't have any symptoms at all! Symptoms of urinary outflow obstruction due to an enlarged prostate, benign or cancerous, are (a) hesitancy which is difficulty in starting to pass urine, (b) a poor flow and (c) dribbling during urination. Some men may notice that they have to get up once or twice at night to pass urine, which they didn't have to do previously. Some may have an urgency to get to a toilet. All of these symptoms may be due to benign disease and that is why it is important to seek a consultation with the GP (www.prostatecanceruk.org) . In a very small number of men bone pain may be the presenting symptom, if the disease has silently spread to the bones without any significant urinary symptoms.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed? (www.prostatecanceruk.org)
Digital rectal examination (the doctor examines the prostate with his or her finger inserted through the patient's back passage) may reveal an irregularity of the contour of the prostate or an area of firmness or hardness in the prostate, raising suspicion. A simple blood test may show a raised level of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). PSA may be normal or only slightly raised in some men but an irregular feeling prostate still warrants further investigation in the form of a biopsy (taking a needle sample from the prostate for examination of the cells under a microscope to diagnose the disease).
Who is at risk of developing prostate cancer?
Age is a significant factor, the most common incidence being in men over seventy. Family history is important as well. A man whose father or brother has the disease has 2-3 times the risk of prostate cancer and if two first degree relatives have the disease, the risk is 4 times (www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/prostate). Even though older people (above the age of 50) are more commonly at risk, any man above the age of forty five whose brother or father had prostate cancer should have a consultation with his General Practitioner (GP) and get himself checked over. Ethnicity is also an important risk factor; men of Afro-Caribbean origin living in the UK have almost double the risk of developing the disease when compared to white men (www.prostatecanceruk.org).
The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of Prostate Cancer and encourage men at higher risk to seek advice from their General Practitioners. I was saddened to see too many men in my clinics after the horse had bolted and the disease had spread beyond the prostate. Awareness of the facts is the key to earlier diagnosis.