Men’s health is a big focus throughout Movember and one of the biggest health issues for men is prostate cancer. In this month’s blog, we take a closer look at the disease.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men in Australia, with more than 3,000 Australian men dying from the disease each year.
Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the prostate gland develop more quickly than in a normal prostate, forming a malignant tumour.
The prostate is a small gland that is about the size of a walnut and sits below the bladder near the rectum. It surrounds the urethra, the passage of the penis through which urine and semen pass.
Only men have a prostate and it forms part of the male reproductive system. It produces some of the nutrients that sperm need once they leave the body and secretions from the prostate make up a large part of semen.
Prostate cancer is generally a slow growing disease and survival rates are better than 98% chance of survival beyond 5 years, when detected early. If found late, however, those survival rates drop to below 26%.
In the early stages, prostate cancer rarely has symptoms. In later stages of the disease, some symptoms may include:
- frequent urination, particularly at night;
- a delay in starting when wanting to urinate;
- a weak stream when urinating;
- dribbling at the end of urinating;
- a lack of bladder control (incontinence);
- pain when urinating or ejaculating;
- blood in the urine or semen; and
- bone pain, particularly in the lower back or pelvis.
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer. These include:
- Age. This is the main risk factor and your risk increases rapidly after 50 years of age. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases to 1 in 7 by the age of 75 and 1 in 5 by the age of 85. The disease is uncommon in men under 50.
- Family History. A family history of prostate, breast or ovarian cancer increases your own risk of developing the disease, particularly if your father or brother developed prostate cancer at a young age. If this is you, make sure you speak to your doctor about getting a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test at 45 years of age.
3. Race. Prostate cancer is slightly more common in people of African and Caribbean descent. If this applies to you, it is recommended you speak to your doctor about getting a PSA blood test at 45 years of age.
4. Diet and Lifestyle. While there is no direct evidence to suggest diet and lifestyle increase your risk of developing the disease, it is still recommended that you maintain a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, remain physically active and minimise alcohol consumption to improve your overall health.
There is no simple, single test to detect prostate cancer. If your doctor suspects you may have prostate cancer, they will generally recommend you undergo one or more of the following tests:
- Digital Rectal Examination. This involves your doctor inserting a gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate to tell if it is enlarged or not.
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test. This measures the PSA levels in your blood. Most of the PSA in your body is made by the prostate. When the prostate is damaged, PSA leaks into the blood. PSA levels can be variable and an elevated PSA level does not mean you have prostate cancer. In fact, some men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels and only one in three men with elevated PSA levels has cancer.
3. Prostate Biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. It involves removing small samples of tissue from your prostate using very thin, hollow needles, guided by an ultrasound. The tissue is then sent to a pathologist to determine whether the cells are malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). It will also help determine the aggressiveness of the disease, if present.
There are a number of different treatment options available, depending on your prognosis and the progression and growth of the disease.
Treatment options generally include:
- Active surveillance
- Hormone therapy
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will discuss the treatment options available to you and recommend the best course of action.
Where can I find out more information?
For more information on this topic, visit:
- Australian Government, Cancer Australia – http://prostate-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au
- Cancer Council Australia – https://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/prostate-cancer.html
- Movember Foundation – https://au.movember.com/mens-health/prostate-cancer#the-facts
- Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia – http://www.prostate.org.au
- WA Department of Health – https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/N_R/Prostate-cancer