What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer develops when abnormal cells in the prostate gland grow in an uncontrolled way, forming a malignant tumour. The prostate gland, found only in men, produces and stores fluid that helps make semen. It is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum and surrounds the urethra - the tube that carries urine out of the bladder.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and it is estimated that one in six males will be diagnosed by the time they are 85. Nine Australian men die each day from this disease.
Early (localised) prostate cancer refers to cancer cells that have grown but do not appear to have spread beyond the prostate.
There are two stages of advanced prostate cancer:
locally advanced prostate cancer where the cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby parts of the body or glands close to the prostate
metastatic prostate cancer where the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body.
Who is at risk of Prostate Cancer?
If you are a male, you are at risk of prostate cancer, but certain men have a higher risk which is why it is important that ALL men get regular prostate check ups and an annual PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test.
The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age so men over 40 should be particularly aware of their prostate health, however, younger men also need to be vigilant particularly if there is a family history of prostate cancer.
It is important to know your family history due to several underlying factors that could increase your risk level.
If your father or brother has ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you have twice the average risk of developing the disease.
If you have two or more close male relatives who have been diagnosed, your lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer increases five-fold.
Your risk also increases if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, especially if a BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation was involved.
Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Early prostate cancer usually does not cause symptoms which is why a regular PSA blood test and check-ups are crucial.
Advanced prostate cancer symptoms can include:
pain while urinating
blood in the urine or semen
a weak stream
pain in the back or pelvis
weak legs or feet.
More widespread disease often spreads to the bones and causes pain or unexplained weight loss and fatigue.
Types of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is described according to where it is located in the body.
1. Localised – Prostate cancer that is restricted to one prostate gland.
2. Locally advanced – prostate cancer that has spread into other areas of tissue near the prostate or can even spread to the pelvic lymph nodes.
3. Advanced or metastatic – prostate cancer that has reached other areas of the body such as organs, bones, and lymph nodes.
Facts to Know About Prostate Cancer
Testing could save your life.
9 Australian men die every day of prostate cancer but early detection could save your life.
Make an appointment with your GP for a simple PSA blood test. Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by both normal prostate cells and cancerous prostate cells. PSA is found in the blood and can be measured with a blood test. The test results will show the level of PSA in your blood. Get this test done EVERY YEAR, unless your doctor advises more frequently. Know your ‘score’ and keep track of it.
Talk to your mates, your partners, your families. Start the conversation to raise awareness, encourage early detection, and help save lives. Too many men are dying from prostate cancer.