Okay guys. Let’s go there…
Not many men like to talk about or think about having someone poke a finger up their bum, but shying away can, and does kill. Over 130 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK EVERY DAY. That’s 47,500 per year! In fact, one man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes. That’s 11,500 men that die from the disease every year.
Take a look at men around you, or think of your mates and count them. Once you get to seven other guys overlay this statistic… one of you will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. One in every eight men, less than a football team, diagnosed. Not develops, but DIAGNOSED because they were tested!
What is prostate cancer?
The prostate is a gland and it is only found in men. Roughly size of a walnut and sits underneath the bladder.
Fluid produced by the prostate protects the urethra (the tube that carries urine and sperm from inside the body and along the inside of the penis) and helps to ensure that sperm survives until it reaches an egg.
When a cell within the prostate gets damaged it can grow in an uncontrolled manner and this develops into prostate cancer.
What to look for
There isn’t a one-symptom-fits-all but, as the prostate is so close to the bladder these are some indicators to look for
- needing to pee more often than usual, especially at night
- difficulty starting to pee
- straining or taking a long time to finish peeing
- a weak flow when you pee
- a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- a sudden need to pee – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet
- dribbling urine after you finish pee – the dot of shame on the front of your jeans appears more regularly
As well as these the less common indicators can be:
- pain when peeing
- pain when ejaculating
Some men, but not all, may notice blood in their urine or semen*, or may have difficulty getting or keeping an erection.
*These symptoms aren’t usually caused by prostate cancer, and are probably more often connected to other health problems that still need to be checked-out by your GP.
Age – Generally, prostate cancer affects men over 50, with the most common age of diagnosis in the UK being between 65 and 69, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the signs if you are younger.
Genetics – If you have family that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer your risk increases. If you have a father or brother that has been diagnosed with prostate cancer your risk rises by 2.5 times. Asian men have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer than white men.
Ethnicity – whilst the current statistics show 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed, African-Caribean men are twice as likely. the risk for those of African heritage is now 1 in four. additionally, black men are more likely to notice indicators from the age of around 45.
Weight – As with most cancers there is compelling evidence to show that unhealthy BMI (overweight or obese) increases the likelihood of prostate cancer being more advanced and aggressive when diagnosed, which can be fatal.
There are a number of diagnostic methods that may be used, but the first thing is to speak to your GP.
- A GP consultation – Clearly the best place to begin, and with so many men being diagnosed you can certain that your GP has dealt with this before
- Urine tests – Pee in a bottle. This will look for a number of things, including blood proteins. In most cases, prostate cancer is ruled out at this stage as urine infections are far more common.
- Blood tests – Blood will be taken and checked for something called PSA (prostate-specific antigen) basically, an indicator that leaks from cancers into the blood but are only found in the prostate.
- DRE – Digital Rectal Examination, yep, the one most blokes try to avoid. The prostate is very difficult to examine due to its location; however, a DRE takes seconds and only requires about two inches of the doctor, or nurse’s gloved finger. It may seem embarrassing at first, but once done you really will wonder why we make so much fuss about it.
After the above, your GP will know whether to send you to a specialist, or not. The specialist, usually a Urologist, may want to run some of the tests again but has the options of:
- MRI – A scanning machine that allows the specialist to ‘see’ what is going on inside by rotating very powerful magnets and reading tiny radio-waves from the atoms in your body. Vert Star Trek, but completely safe and painless.
- Biopsy – A small piece of tissue is surgically removed from the suspect area and examined in the laboratory to see if the tumour is benign (basically, safe, or malignant – the type that grows and spreads). Often carried out under general anesthetic.
- CT Scan – Similar to the MRI in operation, but you will probably have a marker fluid, called a ‘contrast’ administered. The CT scanner uses a form of X-Ray to examine localised areas. Like the MRI it is generally painless and has a very low-risk factor, though it is using X-Rays, the level is low.
Suddenly, a finger up the bum for a few seconds doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it?
- Be aware of the risk factors and indicators
- Overcome shyness or reluctance and speak to a GP or specialist helpline
- Follow the advice given by the medical professionals in your life
- Share with your family
- Donate to support other men – https://prostatecanceruk.org/get-involved/donate
- Pass this message on to your mates.
Remember, telling your family and mates you’re dying is a lot more difficult than a finger up the bum.