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The warning signs of prostate cancer

According to current statistics, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with around one in seven men being diagnosed with it by the age of 85. It’s more common in older men, with 63 per cent diagnosed in men over the age of 65.


What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with more men dying from it, than women dying of breast cancer. Risk factors include age and family history. Currently there is no formal screening program for men. However, if you’re concerned about your risk, speak to your doctor to see if regular screening tests are appropriate for you.

Screening for prostate cancer is usually done via a blood test called a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, and/or a physical examination during which your doctor will check the size of your prostate via a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). The results of these tests usually determine what kind of follow-up is required, if any.

Remember, just because you notice any changes to your health, or new or unusual symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer or a life-threatening disease. However, it is important to follow up with your doctor and have a check.

Please note: The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.

What is the prostate ?

Only men have a prostate. This small gland usually the size of a walnut, is part of the male reproductive system. It sits below the bladder, near the rectum, and surrounds the urethra (the tube in the penis through which urine and semen pass). It’s normal for this gland to grow as men age, but sometimes this can cause problems. However, enlargement isn’t always a sign of cancer.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

There are a number of risk factors for prostate cancer. The two most common are:

1. Age 

The chance of developing prostate cancer increases with age.

2. Family history 

If you have a first-degree male relative who developed prostate cancer, your risk is higher than someone without such family history. Your risk increases again if more than one male relative is diagnosed. If your relative was diagnosed when young, your risk will be higher again.

Research into risk factors is still ongoing, but there is some evidence that other factors may influence your risk. These include:


While prostate cancer can’t be inherited, a man can inherit certain genes that increase the risk.


Some evidence suggests that a diet high in processed meat, or foods high in fat can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.


Environment and lifestyle can also impact your risk (e.g. a sedentary lifestyle or being exposed to chemicals).

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

In its early stages, prostate cancer may not have any symptoms. However, in the later stages, symptoms can include:

    • The sudden or frequent need to urinate, particularly at night.
    • Difficulty urinating. (e.g. trouble starting, not being able to urinate when the feeling is there, or poor urine flow)
    • Feeling uncomfortable or in pain when urinating.
    • Blood in the urine or semen.
    • Pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms don’t mean you have prostate cancer. However, you should follow up with your doctor to make sure everything is okay.

Detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer

Currently there are no men’s health tests that provide sufficient accuracy to screen large populations of men for prostate cancer. This is why there’s no official screening program for prostate cancer, like there is for breast cancer.

The most common test used to determine if there is a problem , is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This test measures levels of PSA, as elevated levels may indicate cancer. However, only one in three men with elevated PSA levels have cancer. Because these levels can vary, you may need to have a few tests over time, so your doctor can determine your risk of cancer.

Your doctor may also perform a digital rectal examination (DRE), which involves inserting a gloved, lubricated finger inside your rectum to check for prostate enlargement.

Results of the blood tests and/or DRE will determine if you need to have further tests.

Noticing new or unusual symptoms can be worrying. However, it doesn’t always mean something is wrong. If you do notice anything unusual, follow up with your doctor. Because like most health conditions, the earlier cancer is detected, the better the treatment outcome.

Please note: The information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice.

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