What every man should know about prostate cancer

What is my risk of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer, affecting one in every nine men. Your personal risk doubles if you have a first degree relative (father or brother) with the disease, particularly if they develop prostate cancer before the age of 60. Prostate cancer risk is also increased for Afro-Caribbean men.

What symptoms should I look out for?

The prostate is located just below the bladder in your pelvis. If your prostate becomes enlarged as a result of disease, it can squeeze the urethra, the tube which carries urine out of your bladder to the penis. So sometimes, difficulties going to the toilet can be a symptom of prostate cancer.

However, many men who have prostate cancer do not have any symptoms. Equally, if you are having problems urinating, it is most likely to be due to a non-cancerous condition called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), when the prostate becomes enlarged. It is important that you see a doctor – the cause of your problems need to be properly assessed.

So how is prostate cancer diagnosed?

There is no national screening programme for prostate cancer, with regular tests such as those offered to women for breast cancer. Usually, the first step is a PSA test, which stands for the prostate specific antigen, a protein which can be detected in a blood test. This test can be carried out in your local GP surgery.

If your PSA levels are high, this may indicate that you are at risk of prostate cancer. Your age will also be considered when assessing your PSA result, because older men tend to have larger prostates and therefore slightly higher readings. The PSA test does not tell us whether or not you have prostate cancer – only whether you may be at risk. Your doctor will also consider your family history and your ethnicity.

Should I have a PSA test?

You are entitled to ask your GP for a PSA test. Your GP should counsel you about the test, explaining that if your level is raised, you may need further assessments and perhaps treatment. We believe there is a benefit in having a PSA test regularly from the age of 40. This means we can monitor your PSA over time and quickly identify significant changes. If results are normal, the test need only be repeated every two years.

What happens if my PSA test is high?

If your PSA result is considered to be high, you will need to have some further assessments. Your GP may carry out a digital rectal examination (DRE) to examine your prostate. If it feels abnormal and hard, this is a sign that there may be a problem with the health of your prostate. You may be referred to a specialist called a urologist who may carry out a scan of your prostate. At Birmingham Prostate Clinic, we have a wide range of advanced diagnostic tests not widely available elsewhere which enable us to make an accurate assessment of your personal risk. The principle is to quickly identify cancer but avoiding tests and treatment which are not needed.

How can I find out more?

Our website has further, extensive information about the way prostate cancer is assessed and treated, together with many accounts from our patients, who describe their experiences of prostate cancer. Birmingham Prostate Clinic also has a specialist nurse who provides continuous support throughout treatment and runs both a patient support group and buddying scheme.

About Birmingham Prostate Clinic

Birmingham Prostate Clinic is a private centre of excellence providing services at four hospitals across the West Midlands:

Follow us on Twitter for the latest prostate cancer news and developments: twitter.com/prostatebirm

For appointments and information, please contact us.