23 March 2018
The prostate is a walnut sized gland that produces the fluid which makes up part of the semen. It sits just below the bladder between the penis and anus and surrounds the tube carrying urine from the bladder to the penis. It fulfils an important role but as men age, it can start to cause problems, not all of which are cancer related.
Prostate enlargement affects men over 50 years old and can cause urinary problems such as needing to pass urine more often, difficulty passing urine, getting up frequently at night, needing to rush or leaking afterwards.
Prostatitis, where the gland becomes inflamed or swollen can sometimes be caused by infection and commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50 years. This typically causes pain on passing urine, in the genitals and even in the low back, buttocks and pelvis.
Prostate cancer occurs when cells within the gland start to grow out of control. Slow growing cancers are common and may not cause symptoms or shorten life. Prostate cancer is rare under the age of 50 and is most commonly diagnosed between 65-69. Most early cancers don’t cause any symptoms but if they do, they can be the same as those of an enlarged prostate such as problems urinating. Other symptoms include pain on ejaculating, pain or stiffness in the lower body, tiredness or loss of appetite. Men at high risk are those with a family history such as a father or brother with prostate cancer, those of black ethnic origin, or those who are overweight.
The Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of the PSA protein produced by the gland present in the blood. It may help find out if you are more likely to have cancer but it is not a perfect test and it will not help find all prostate cancers. A raised PSA can indicate cancer but it is also raised in non-cancerous conditions such as enlargement or a urine infection. About three in four men with a raised level will not have cancer and the test can miss 15% of cancers. Men should not have the test if they have a urine infection or within 48 hours of ejaculation or vigorous exercise.
At a private GP consultation at Spire Gatwick Park you can talk through your concerns and symptoms with a sympathetic doctor who will assess your risk and discuss the pros and cons of the PSA test. The doctor can then arrange the appropriate examination and tests as necessary and also a follow up appointment with the same doctor to explain the results and arrange any referrals, if needed.