Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in the UK, with 143 men diagnosed every day, with around 475,000 men currently living with the condition. All of that means it’s a good idea to have an understanding of what it is , and more importantly what the symptoms are, so that you can get checked out sooner rather than later.
All of that means it’s probably worth knowing a bit more about it than it might involve a finger up your bum at some point.
What is a prostate?
Your prostate is a small gland that sits between your penis and your bladder, surrounding the urethra – the tube that takes your wee out of your body.
It’s there to produce the thick white fluid that becomes semen when it’s mixed with sperm from the testicles.
What is prostate cancer?
Simply put, cancer inside the prostate gland.
Sometimes prostate cancer grows very slowly, doesn’t really cause any problems, and won’t need treatment.
Sometimes prostate cancer grows quickly, and that’s when it’s more likely to start causing problems – and spread elsewhere in your body. Catching and treating it early is key.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
You might notice symptoms of prostate cancer when you’re going for a wee. They include things like:
- Needing to go more often – especially at night
- Needing to go suddenly – and maybe dribbling or leaking before you reach the loo
- Straining to wee
- A weak flow
- Taking a long time to finish
- Feeling like your bladder isn’t empty
Some people may even experience pain when urinating or ejaculating.
Is it always prostate cancer?
No! Lots of the symptoms above can be caused by what you happen to be eating or drinking, or other conditions – including things like an enlarged prostate, or prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate.
It’s still always worth getting anything new or unusual for you properly checked out though – especially if you’re someone at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.
Who’s at risk of prostate cancer?
You’re more at risk for prostate cancer if you’re over 50. The most common age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65 and 69 years.
For reasons that aren’t fully understood you’re also more at risk if you’re a black man – with up to 1 in 4 black men likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime.
Your family history also plays a part - particularly if your dad or brother have had prostate cancer, but there also seems to be a link to breast cancer if your mum or sister have had that.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
There’s no specific test for prostate cancer, but a diagnosis is made through a combination of things including a PSA blood test measuring levels of a prostate-specific antigen, an MRI scan, a biopsy – and the famous digital rectal examination we’ve all heard so much about.
What happens in a digital rectal examination?
A digital rectal examination is where a doctor or nurse uses a finger to check for any problems inside your bottom.
It’s usually very quick and painless – if they’re pressing on your prostate you might just feel like you need to have a wee.
You can ask for a male or female practitioner if you want to, get changed in private behind a curtain, and even take a friend in with you if it would make you feel more comfortable.
How is prostate cancer treated?
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, often no treatment is needed at all. If it’s not causing any major problems and it’s not spreading, watching and waiting is very often the way things go.
Your condition will of course be carefully monitored. If you do need intervention, that can include things like surgical removal of the prostate, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, or newer treatments like high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and cryotherapy.
There is a risk of side effects with any sort of treatment, which can include things like urinary and erectile dysfunction. It’s really important to talk through the options and understand the pros and cons of each sort of intervention – and get the right support to live with and manage your condition.
What are survival rates like for prostate cancer?
Pretty good. According to Cancer Research, 9 out of 10 men survive their disease for 5 years.
But early diagnosis is still key - the faster you find out what’s going on, the more opportunity and options you have to manage it.
How can Equipsme help with prostate cancer?
At Equipsme we’re not shy about penises, and we’re not shy about telling you we don’t cover cancer treatment.
What we do do is help you get seen by someone fast - and with suspected prostate cancer that’s absolutely key to managing the condition, and deciding what to do next.
People on our most basic plan can talk about their symptoms with a GP 24/7, and get advice about next steps. Those with diagnosis as part of their plan can get a referral to see a private specialist (as long as your symptoms or medical condition were not pre-existing, or otherwise excluded under the plan, and pre-authorised by AXA Health) and get their diagnosis underway.
If it is prostate cancer, you’ll have to go back to the NHS for any treatment.
AXA Health’s brilliant Health at Hand 24/7 nurse helpline is also there to help you with any ongoing questions you have about your treatment and options.
How do I find out more about prostate cancer?
There’s loads of great resources to find out more about prostate cancer. Here’s some of them:
Prostate Cancer UK