22 February 2013
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. The prostate, which only men have, is approximately the size of a walnut and sits below the bladder, surrounding the urethra.
While the outlook for prostate cancer is considered to be good - in comparison to other cancers it progresses very slowly – it appears that the incidence of it appearing is likely to increase over the next few years.
According to Cancer Research UK, boys born in 2015 are three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives than those who were born in 1990.
This represents a rise from five per cent (one in 20) to 14 per cent (one in seven). The mean reason for this has been attributed to the wider usage of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.
The blood examination helps to identify the cancer early on and is usually performed at a GP surgery. By gauging how much PSA has leaked into the bloodstream of a person, healthcare professionals can identify a "wide-range of prostate cancers".
Additionally, the rise in prostate cancer occurrences is attributed to the fact that men are living longer. Consequently, because the chances of men getting prostate cancer increases with age – most cases tend to develop in people over 70 – numbers will naturally rise.
"We’re detecting more cases of prostate cancer than ever before," commented professor Malcolm Mason, prostate cancer expert at Cancer Research UK.
"And we’re carrying out an intensive amount of research to find better methods than PSA to distinguish between the minority of cases that are life threatening and do need treatment – the vipers – from the majority of cases that don’t – the grass snakes. But there is much more to be done."
He added that a better approach to screening all men might be to target tests at those who have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Prof Mason said that that while research into this particular cancer has already saved lives, there is still uncertainty within the medical world about how to treat some forms of the disease.
"Surgery and radiotherapy - with their potential side effects – is one option, to be balanced against the option of careful monitoring with regular checkups," the specialist concluded.
While the numbers suffering from prostate cancer are set to go up, death rates in the UK are 18 per cent lower than they were 20 years ago. By being able to diagnose the condition early on, many lives have been saved.
The NHS informs that a man can live for decades without exhibiting any symptoms of the cancer, meaning that "men die with prostate cancer, rather than as a result of it".
Treatments for it include removing the prostate, hormone therapy and radiotherapy, the latter being used to destroy cancerous cells.
"If the cancer spreads from the prostate to other parts of the body (metastasis), typically the bones, it cannot be cured and treatment is focused on prolonging life and relieving symptoms," the NHS has explained.
"Approximately 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in the UK."
Posted by Jeanette Royston
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