By Alisa-Jayne Butler
September is the International Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men (apart from common skin cancers) with about 18, 500 new cases are reported every year.
1 in 7 Australian men are at risk of developing prostate cancer before the age of 75, and 1 in 4 men will be affected by the age of 85.
The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut that sits below the bladder and is found only in men. It produces most of the fluid that make up semen. The gland surrounds a tube called the ‘urethra’, which carries urine (from the bladder) and semen (from the prostate and other sex glands) through the penis and out of the body.
The prostate normally gets bigger as a man gets older, with the growth of the prostate depending on the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is made by the testicles (testes).
A growing prostate may narrow or block the urethra, which can change urinary patterns. This enlargement is called benign prostate enlargement – it is not cancer, and usually begins around the urethra, deep inside the prostate. This growth may cause symptoms such as:
Weak urine flow
Frequent urination, especially at night
An urgent need to urinate
Leaking or dribbling after urinating
Bone pain in the lower back, upper thighs or hips
Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells in the prostate gland grow more quickly than in a normal prostate, forming a malignant tumour. Most prostate cancers grow slower than other types of cancer.
Early prostate cancer rarely causes symptoms. This is because the cancer usually grows in the outer part of the gland and is not large enough to put pressure on the urethra. If the cancer grows and spreads beyond the prostate (advanced or metastatic cancer), it may cause:
Pain or burning when urinating
Increased frequency or difficulty urinating
Blood in the urine or semen
Pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
As you can see, these symptoms are common to other conditions, including benign prostate enlargement previously mentioned, and may not be a sign of advanced prostate cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak to your health care practitioner.
Unlike bowel and breast cancer, there is no screening program available for prostate cancer. This is because there is no sufficient evidence at present that routine screening for prostate cancer (using a blood test and an examination) is beneficial. This is why it is important to note any changes in bodily function to your health care practitioner.
Causes of prostate cancer:
While the causes of prostate cancer are unknown, the chance of developing prostate cancer increases:
As you get older – it mainly affect men over 65
If your father or brother has had prostate cancer
If you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer
If you are of African descent – you have a higher risk than men of European descent
Although some risk factors for prostate cancer cannot be controlled, such as age and ethnicity, researchers continue to look into when men can do to lower their personal risk. There is no proven way to completely prevent this disease, but there may be steps you can take to lower your cancer risk.
There are also some supplements that may nourish and protect the prostate gland, please see you healthcare professional about these options.