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According to the NHS, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United Kingdom. Just over 40,000 men are diagnosed each year.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland, small in size, located in the pelvis, surrounded by the bladder, and is found in men only. The function of the prostate is to help with the production of semen.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer usually develops over a number of years, and the initial stages can sometimes not have any obvious symptoms. The symptoms usually start showing when the cancer has grown to such a size it starts to put pressure of the urethra. Therefore most of the symptoms are linked to problems with urination.

Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty urinating, straining or taking a long time
  • Needing to urinate more frequently, often at night time.
  • Weak flow
  • Feeling as though your bladder is never emptied properly

Symptoms that can potentially indicate that the cancer has spread:

  • Bone and back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Unexplained weightless

Most of men experience an enlargement of the prostate as they get older, this is nothing to do with cancer.

Causes of prostate cancer

Like with a lot of other cancers, the causes are largely unknown. However, research has shown that there are certain things that increase your risk of developing the disease.

Chances of developing prostate cancer increase as you get older, most cases are found in men aged 50 or above.

For reasons undetermined, the chances of developing prostate cancer is higher amongst men of African or African-Caribbean descent. It is, again for reasons not yet know, least common in men of Asian descent.

Men who have had a first-degree relative affected by prostate cancer, have slightly higher risk of developing it for themselves. This relative is most likely to be a brother or father.

The diagnosis of prostate cancer

As for tests to diagnose cancer, there is no one test. Usually the doctor will test you for prostate cancer through:

  • blood tests
  • a biopsy
  • physical examination of your prostate
  • a urine sample

For further testing a doctor can refer you for an MRI scan, to look at the inside of your body through a tiny camera which then builds a detailed picture of your internal body. Alternately, you may be required to receive a isotope bone scan to check if the cancer has spread to your bones.  A little radiation dye will be injected into the vein and collects in parts of the bone where there are oddities.

Treatment for prostate cancer

For many, treatment is not immediately necessary and a policy of “watchful waiting” may be advised and adopted; this is simply just carefully monitoring the condition.

Some instances of prostate cancer can be cured through having the cancer surgically removed, radiotherapy and hormone therapy in the early stages.

If it is found later, and has spread to the bones, it cannot be cured. The treatment is then focussed on relieving symptoms and prolonging life.

In deciding what treatment is right for you your doctor will determine the treatment based on:

  • What grade or stage the cancer it
  • The type and size of the cancer
  • Your overall, general state of health
  • Whether the cancer has spread to anywhere else in the body

Treatment can come with complications in the form of side effects such as:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Urinary incontinence

Therefore, some men may choose to delay treatment until there is an imminent risk of the cancer spreading.

Recent developments in treatment, such as high-intensity focused ultrasound or cryotherapy, aim to reduce the side effects listed above. These treatments are even being offered now as an alternative to surgery, radiotherapy or hormone therapy in some hospitals.  Nevertheless, the long-term effectiveness in comparison to the long-term effectiveness of surgically removing the prostate is not yet known.

If your symptoms begin to affect your life to the point that you feel you can no longer work, there is financial support available. The side effects can also mean that you feel as though you cannot do all the other things you used to be able to do due to how unwell you feel. This may be linked to your treatment however, as an operation of such a large scale, radiotherapy and hormone therapy can all make you feel extreme fatigue whilst you recover – this is normal.

Faster and efficient treatment for prostate cancer can potentially be provided by private health care, to check out our plans, click here to compare health cash plans. 

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