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What you need to know about prostate cancer

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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What you need to know about prostate cancer

One in two people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime and prostate cancer is one of the four most common types of cancer in the UK.

Prostate cancer affects the prostate which is a small gland located in the pelvis which forms part of the male reproductive system. The prostate produces a thick white fluid which when mixed with sperm creates semen.

The risks of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older, in particular in men aged 50 or over. Other factors which have been found to increase the risk include obesity, ethnicity and those whose male family members have had prostate cancer.

The symptoms of prostate cancer often only present when the prostate has become large enough to affect the urethra which carries urine from the bladder to the penis. As such, the symptoms tend to include an increased need to urinate and difficulty emptying the bladder.

There is no single screening test for prostate cancer but a combination of blood tests, rectal examination, MRI and biopsy can all assist in the diagnosis. If you are over 50, you can request a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. These tests may detect increased levels of PSA but at the moment the tests are not seen to be reliable.

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer then you may not need treatment. If it is detected early then the GP may recommend “watchful waiting”. Some may require surgery to remove the prostate and/or radiotherapy with hormone therapy.  An early diagnosis can make a significant difference.

Prostate cancer symptoms could also be related to other health and lifestyle issues however it is recommended that you seek advice from your GP, if only to exclude the diagnosis.

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