There are several ways to determine if a patient has prostate cancer, as opposed to other potential prostate issues. In this section, we cover the facts about prostate cancer, its signs and symptoms.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut, just below the bladder. It is found only in men. It produces a thick, white fluid which mixes with sperm to make semen. When you pass urine, it flows from the bladder, through a tube called the urethra, and out of the penis. The urethra has to pass through the prostate on the way. This is why some men will have problems urinating when they have an enlarged prostate.

What is cancer?

Your body is made up of cells. These cells continuously renew themselves. New cells are made to replace old cells which die off, or are injured. This is a normal, healthy process, and the body has clever systems in place to control the process, so that we don’t make too many cells too quickly, or let cells which have in some way become damaged or unusual go on to reproduce.

Cancer happens when something takes the brakes off this process, and cell renewal gets out of control. Cancer cells grow together and form tumours, or neoplasms, and these tumours invade healthy tissue.

However, not every growth is related to cancer. Cancers are described as ‘malignant,’ but many ‘benign,’ non-cancerous growths, are more common.

Sometimes cancer cells can break away from the original site and settle in other parts of the body causing further damage that can be more difficult to treat. When this happens the cancers that have spread are called ‘metastases’ or ‘secondaries’. Catching cancer in its early stages is one of the most effective ways of combating the disease.

What goes wrong with the prostate?

As men get older, the prostate gland increases in size. Many men will develop a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH can also be called Benign Prostate Enlargement. According to the NHS, more than 1 in 3 men over the age of 50 will have some symptoms of prostate enlargement.

BPH is not cancer. Men who have difficulty urinating may have drug therapy or an operation called a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) to relieve the symptoms of BPH. Prostate cancer can, in some advanced cases, cause urinary difficulties similar to those for BPH. So some men with prostate cancer may be offered a TURP to relieve these symptoms.

This operation does not cure prostate cancer. Four out of 10 men who are 70 years or older will have prostate cancer. But some of them will live out their whole lives without the cancer ever being discovered or affecting them.

Prostatitis is when the prostate becomes swollen. Sometimes it is caused by a bacterial infection, although sometimes the cause is unknown. It is most common in men aged between 30 and 50, though it can affect men of all ages. It can be treated using a combination of drugs to relax the prostate, and painkillers.

Symptoms of prostate problems

These are some symptoms which are usually caused by benign disease, not prostate cancer. So do not worry if you have any of these symptoms, but do go to your doctor to have them checked as there are treatments which can help to relieve your discomfort.

 

● Difficulty or pain in passing urine.
● Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine.
● Frequent visits to the toilet, especially at night.
● Starting and stopping while urinating.
● Dribbling urine.
● A feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully.

Signs of prostate cancer

There are generally few, if any, early signs of prostate cancer. This is why it is so important for men aged 50 and over to get checked, especially if you are a black man, or have a family history of prostate cancer, even if you have no symptoms.

Sometimes, the following things can be symptoms of prostate cancer.

 

  • Difficulty or pain in passing urine.
  • Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine.
  • Frequent visits to the toilet, especially at night.
  • Starting and stopping while urinating.
  • Dribbling urine.
  • A feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully.

 

  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Back pain, pelvis pain, or hip pain.
  • Difficulty getting or keeping an erection.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Talk to your GP about your prostate

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