Clinical update

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – one in eight will develop it at some time

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men – one in eight will develop it at some time

Prostate cancer Picture: iStock

Essential facts

Prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland, at the base of the bladder in men. It surrounds the first part of the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder.

The prostate gland helps in the production of semen, which is also carried in the urethra.

Cancer of the prostate gland is the most common cancer in men, and one in eight will develop it during their lifetime.

Despite more than 10,800 men dying from prostate cancer per year across the UK, awareness about the prostate and its role remains alarmingly low, according to Prostate Cancer UK. A survey of 2,000 men found half did not know where the prostate was located in their body, 17% were unaware they had one and 92% did not know it made semen. Almost nine out of ten men in higher risk groups were unaware of their increased danger. The charity has launched a television advertising campaign to raise awareness of this cancer.

Prostate cancer can grow very slowly and symptoms may occur over a number of years. Symptoms include passing urine more than usual, particularly at night; needing to rush to the toilet; difficulty passing urine, including it stopping and starting; and a sense of not being able to empty the bladder fully. More unusually, there could be pain when passing urine and blood in the urine or semen.

Age is the most significant risk factor, with only 1% of cases occurring in men under 50 years old. Family history can be significant; men are two and a half times more likely to develop prostate cancer if their father or brother has had it. Ethnicity can increase the risk as well. In the UK, black African and black Caribbean men, compared with white men, have double the risk of developing prostate cancer, while Asian men have half the risk of white men.

Be alert to the factors that can place men in a high-risk category. Help patients to access information about conditions that affect the prostate gland and to find out whether they are at risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Be ready to discuss with patients the different treatment options available, and be aware of the emotional and physical support that men may need before, during and after prostate cancer treatment.

Expert comment

Naomi Fiore, senior specialist nurse at Prostate Cancer UK

‘Every year more than 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 16% of cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage. If men are diagnosed when the cancer is still within the prostate, survival increases. There is no national screening programme, as the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test is not particularly reliable.

‘Men thinking of having the PSA test need to be aware of the pros and cons so they can make an informed decision. While it can pick up cases of prostate cancer before symptoms appear, 76% of men with a raised PSA do not have cancer. There is a shortage of prostate cancer clinical nurse specialists and that is something we are concerned about.’


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