September marks Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and highlights this significant condition in our country. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among males . According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it is estimated that in 2017, prostate cancer will account for 23.1% of all new cancer cases diagnosed and 12.7% of all deaths from cancer.
So, what is prostate cancer, and what are the signs and symptoms?
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system and surrounds the urethra (the passage where urine and semen pass through). Its function is to produce and secrete the fluid that makes up semen.
In the case of cancer, abnormal cells can grow in the prostate gland, and spread to other parts of the body. Some men don’t realise that they have prostate cancer because they don’t have any symptoms- prostate cancer often grows slowly. For others, they may notice changes in their urinary function such as pain or discomfort, feelings of urgency, inability to control urine flow and blood in urine or semen. This is because cancer can place pressure around the urethra.
Despite this, these symptoms may not always point to cancer. As men get older, the prostate gland often grows in size, which can also place pressure on the urethra and cause difficulties with urination.
Should I be screened for prostate cancer?
There has been much debate over whether men should be screened for prostate cancer. There are two tests that are most commonly used to help with early detection of prostate cancer:
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test: which measures the PSA levels (proteins that are made by both normal and cancerous prostate cells). With prostate cancer, the level of PSA can be higher than in people without cancer.
Digital rectal examination (DRE): A procedure whereby a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel the prostate gland through the rectal wall for lumps, enlargement or any other unusual changes.
While both the PSA test and DRE can be helpful in the early detection of prostate cancer, neither test used separately or in conjunction with one another is accurate enough to distinguish potentially harmful cancers from non-threatening tumours. Both tests may also miss threatening tumours. Peak cancer organisations such as the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Cancer Council Australia do not support the routine use of screening for prostate cancer with PSA with or without DRE. This is because it can lead to overdiagnosis, which can lead to unnecessary treatments that have side effects such as sexual impotence, urinary incontinence and bowel problems.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are concerned about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor in order to make an informed choice about whether one of these tests is right for you.
The above health information is general information only and is not a substitute for advice from a qualified medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or are concerned about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor in order to make an informed choice about whether one of these tests is right for you.
To find out more information on prostate cancer, visit www.prostate.org.au.