What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland found only in men, that is located between the bladder and the penis. It is about the size of a walnut but gets a little bigger after the male reaches 40 years of age.

The function of the prostate is to produce a thick white fluid which, when combined with sperm from the testicles, makes semen. It also produces a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) which turns the semen into a liquid.

Prostate cancer symptoms

With over 40,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year, prostate cancer (PCa) remains the most common cancer in men. Unfortunately, prostate cancer can remain silent for a long time. During the early stages, there may not be any noticeable symptoms at all.

In many cases, prostate cancer symptoms may only become apparent once the prostate gland is so enlarged that it begins to affect the flow of urine.

Some urinary symptoms include:

  • Urinary frequency with or without reduced urine flow
  • Urgency
  • Blood in the urine and/or in the semen
  • Burning sensation in the penis

Other prostate cancer symptoms which may occur include anemia, bone pain (back, hips and legs), erectile dysfunction, fractures, loss of appetite, weight loss and painful ejaculation.

Although these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you will have prostate cancer, they are a good indicator that something may be wrong. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend that you see your GP. Your GP may then schedule a Direct Rectal Examination (DRE) or a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test.

Causes of prostate cancer

Whilst it is unknown what directly causes prostate cancer, there are a number of factors which can increase your risk in developing the condition.

These include:

  • Age – although the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, research shows that men aged 50 years or over are more likely to be diagnosed.
  • Ethnicity – prostate cancer is more common in African or African-Caribbean men.
  • Family history – if a close relative in your family has been diagnosed before they reached 60 years of age, your risk of developing prostate cancer may increase.

As with other cancers, the risk of developing prostate cancer can be increased if you lead an unhealthy lifestyle. There has been some research to suggest that those who exercise regularly and eat a healthy balanced diet, may be less at risk of developing prostate cancer.

Diagnosing prostate cancer

There are a few ways to test for prostate cancer. The most common methods used are a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test.

The Digital Rectal Examination  – This is where a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the prostate gland. If the doctor detects any abnormalities in the size, shape or texture, then you may need further tests.

The PSA test  – This is a blood test which measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your bloodstream. If the results show a higher than the normal amount is found, you may need further testing. Signs of an increased level of PSA in the blood can indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.

Prostate cancer treatment

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer during the early stages, following a DRE or PSA test, then immediate treatment may not be necessary. If you are not experiencing any symptoms or discomfort, you may be told to monitor your condition.

In some cases, prostate cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated during the early stages. Treatments used to cure prostate cancer include surgically removing the prostate, hormone therapy and radiotherapy. There are some side effects of prostate cancer treatment, including urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

In cases where the cancer is diagnosed later in life and has spread to other parts of the body, it becomes incurable. Under these circumstances, the prostate cancer treatment will then focus on relieving symptoms and prolonging life.

We hope you found this article on prostate cancer symptoms helpful. For more information on prostate cancer treatments available at London Urologist, click here.

Vinod Nargund

Mr Vinod Nargund is a Consultant Urological Surgeon specialising in Urological cancer, male sexual and fertility problems. He was trained in Urology at the City Hospital Belfast, the Royal Infirmary Bradford and the Churchill and John Radcliffe Hospitals in Oxford. You can view all of his qualifications on his biography page.

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