9 out of 10 men have no idea what the prostate gland does. We asked Mr Vijay Sangar, Consultant Urologist at the Spire Manchester Clinic Hale to explain, ‘the prostate gland is a male organ that lies at the bottom of the bladder. When a man ejaculates, the prostate produces the fluid. This fluid contains nutrients for the sperm.’
The number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer has quadrupled since the 1970s. Last year over 37,000 men in the UK were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully this increase in number has not been matched with a similar increase in death rates. Mr Sangar explains ‘this is due to men seeking help earlier and being diagnosed with prostate cancer with an earlier stage, meaning that treatments are more likely to be successful.’
Prostate cancer rarely occurs before the age of 40 but is more likely in older age groups, particularly those over 60. So who should be worried about prostate cancer? Well, if you have a family history, for example if your father, brother or uncle have been diagnosed then your risk is higher. This risk can be increased by up to ten times if you have two first-degree relatives with prostate cancer. Men who have problems passing urine may have non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate but in some cases cancer can co-exist or be the cause of the symptoms. Symptoms include passing urine too frequently during the day or night, having a poor flow or having to urgently pass urine. Mr Sangar says ‘Men who have these problems or who have first-degree relatives with prostate cancer should seek the help of their GP Their GP will assess them and consider undertaking a PSA and an examination of the prostate gland.’ A PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) is a simple blood test, whilst a prostate examination may be carried out by your doctor examining you through the back passage with their finger.
If your doctor feels that there is something abnormal they will ask you to see a specialist urologist. They will usually repeat the tests and discuss the results with you. They may suggest a prostate biopsy.
This is carried out under local anaesthetic in the out patient department and usually takes 10 to 15 minutes. The biopsy can be uncomfortable and some patients may experience problems passing urine following it. If the biopsy is positive then your specialist would advise on treatment ranging from surgery (radical prostatectomy), radiotherapy or medication to PSA surveillance, depending on the stage of the cancer.
Mr Sangar says ‘Recent treatment advances have helped to a degree. For example robot prostatectomy has helped to reduce some side effects of treatment and has also helped surgeons remove all the cancer with better precision. Patients should remember that in general terms surgery and radiotherapy give the same cure rates. It is the side effects that differ the most. The treatment a patient receives depends on a number of factors including their perception of the treatments being offered and which side effects they are happier accepting. The specialist team are there to help patients make the right decision for themselves and their families.’
Mr Vijay Sangar recommends the following websites for further information: