Prostate problems: cancer or enlarged, and common symptoms
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer to affect men in the UK. The King is being treated for an enlarged prostate. And yet not everyone knows what the prostate is or how to spot symptoms of problems. Here's all you need to know
Prostate problems are common in men, particularly older men, but it remains something shrouded in mystery, since having it looked at is often stymied by fear; this of course, leads to later detection of problems, meaning a higher risk of serious complications, and terminal cases when it comes to cancer.
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body. The prostate’s primary function is to produce seminal fluid, which nourishes and transports sperm. Of course prostate problems can also occur.
An enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a common condition that affects men as they age. And this is what King Charles is undergoing treatment for.
As men age, the prostate gland can undergo a non-cancerous growth, leading to an enlargement of the gland. This condition is referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia because the growth is not cancerous or life-threatening. However, an enlarged prostate can cause bothersome symptoms due to its impact on the urethra and bladder.
Symptoms of an Enlarged Prostate (BPH) may include:
- Urinary Frequency: Men with an enlarged prostate often experience an increased need to urinate, especially during the night (nocturia).
- Urgency: There may be a sense of urgency to urinate, and it may be challenging to postpone going to the bathroom.
- Weak or Interrupted Urine Stream: An enlarged prostate can narrow the urethra, leading to a weakened or intermittent urine flow.
- Incomplete Emptying: Some men may feel that they have not completely emptied their bladder after urination.
- Difficulty Starting Urination: It may be more challenging to initiate the urinary stream, and there may be a delay before urine begins to flow.
- Straining During Urination: Increased effort may be required to push urine out, leading to straining during the process.
It’s important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily indicate prostate cancer but are more indicative of an enlarged prostate. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional if any of these symptoms are present, as they can also be associated with other conditions.
The exact cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia is not fully understood, but age and changes in the balance of hormones, specifically the male hormones (androgens), are believed to play a role. Family history and genetics may also contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate.
Management of an enlarged prostate may involve lifestyle modifications, medications, or, in more severe cases, as with the King, surgical interventions. Regular check-ups and discussions with healthcare providers can help monitor the condition and ensure optimal prostate health and prostate problems to be caught early.
When it comes to prostate cancer, we are obviously looking at a more serious condition.
Here are some basic facts and figures about it, from Prostate Cancer UK:
- Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
- More than 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year on average – that’s 144 men every day.
- Every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer – that’s more than 12,000 men every year.
- 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
- Around 490,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.
While it is a common cancer, the good news is that with early detection and advancements in medical treatment, the prognosis for prostate cancer is often favourable. But of course,
To increase awareness and promote early diagnosis, it is essential to understand the symptoms associated with prostate cancer.
Symptoms of prostate cancer:
- Urinary Changes: One of the early signs of prostate cancer is changes in urinary habits. This can include increased frequency of urination, especially during the night (nocturia), a weak or interrupted urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping urination, or the sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder.
- Blood in Urine or Semen: Observing blood in the urine or semen can be alarming and may indicate prostate cancer. While there can be other non-cancerous reasons for these symptoms, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any serious conditions.
- Erectile Dysfunction: Prostate cancer may also contribute to erectile dysfunction. This occurs when the cancer affects the nerves and blood vessels responsible for normal erectile function. Although erectile dysfunction can be caused by various factors, it should not be ignored, and a medical consultation is recommended.
- Pelvic Discomfort: Some men with prostate cancer may experience discomfort in the pelvic area, lower back, or hips. This discomfort may be persistent and not alleviated by typical measures such as rest or over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Bone Pain: Advanced prostate cancer can spread to the bones, leading to bone pain, particularly in the spine, hips, and pelvis. If a man experiences unexplained bone pain, especially in these areas, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly.
However, as Laura Kerby, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK, says, “Unfortunately, early prostate cancer usually doesn’t have any symptoms, which is why men need to be aware of their risk and should take our online risk checker to find out more. If you’re at higher risk – which includes all men over 50 – you’re entitled to a free PSA blood test from your GP. Because of their higher risk, we strongly recommend that Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should speak to their GP from the age of 45.”
Increasing awareness of prostate cancer risk and enabling more men to make an informed choice about whether to have a PSA blood test reduces the proportion of men diagnosed with metastatic disease.
Risk factors for prostate cancer:
Understanding the risk factors associated with prostate cancer can aid in identifying individuals who may be more prone to developing the disease. These risk factors include:
- Age: Prostate cancer is more common in older men, with the risk increasing significantly after the age of 50.
- Family History: Individuals with a family history of prostate cancer, especially in a first-degree relative, are at a higher risk.
- Race: African American men are at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men of other races.
- Diet and Lifestyle: A diet high in saturated fats and a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
One in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. All men over 50 are entitled to a free PSA blood test from their GP. Black men or those with a family history of the disease are at higher risk and should speak to their GP from the age of 45.
Check your risk using Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker at prostatecanceruk.org/riskcheck
Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer can also contact Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurses on weekdays on 0800 074 8383 or online at www.prostatecanceruk.org
For any prostate problems or concerns, check in with your GP.
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