Knowing the signs and symptoms
As March marks Prostate Cancer Awareness month we share the key things our urologists believe all men should know about the disease; from knowing the signs and symptoms as well as the risk factors and understanding more about PSA tests. It’s also important to be aware of the latest treatments and innovations, which can increase patient choice and improve outcomes. By being better informed we believe more men will be encouraged to come forward to get checked and those facing a diagnosis will feel more empowered.
Mr Philip Charlesworth, Consultant Urological Surgeon at GenesisCare explains why understanding the disease is so important “I’ve treated prostate cancer patients for a number of years, and over that time have seen a significant lack of understanding of the disease which can lead to a delay in getting help.”
Previous research conducted by GenesisCare and Prostate Cancer Research has shown that nearly a fifth (19%) of people surveyed were not able to identify any of the symptoms of prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer is generally detected at an early point just through a PSA blood test, ensuring people are aware of the main symptoms and therefore able to raise any concerns with a healthcare professional is really important. The symptoms could be a sign of something else, however if it is cancer then an early diagnosis can lead to greater treatment options and improved outcomes.
The main symptoms for men to be aware of are:
- Difficulty in starting urination
- Finding it hard to fully empty your bladder or feeling like your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- Weak urine flow
- Leaking of urine, this might be just before or after you go to the toilet
- Needing to urinate more often, particularly during the night
- Sudden urges to urinate
In the video below Mr Charlesworth explains more about the prostate, its function and the symptoms associated with a potential prostate issue.
Being better informed will help anyone facing a diagnosis to feel more empowered.
- Mr Philip Charlesworth, Consultant Urological Surgeon at GenesisCare
Alongside knowing the signs and symptoms, it’s also vitally important for men to know if they are in a high-risk group – these are based on five main factors:
- Age; most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 50
- A family history of prostate cancer
- Being overweight or obese
- Different hormone levels – research shows men with higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer
- Ethnicity – one in four black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer compared to one in eight men of other ethnicities
Prostate cancer is more common amongst older men, especially those aged over 50. Heightened risks also come with genetics, so if there’s a family history of prostate cancer or breast cancer it’s worth flagging this with your GP.
About PSA Tests
If you report any concerns to a GP they’ll often council you about the pros and cons of having a PSA blood test done. A PSA test is a simple blood test used to help detect prostate cancer – specifically it measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood.
If you are found to have a PSA above the age-specific range, then it’s likely you’ll need further tests such as an MRI scan in the first instance to confirm whether there is cancer presence and depending on the outcome of the MRI, a biopsy may then be necessary. It’s important to know that if you have a raised PSA reading it doesn’t necessarily mean you have prostate cancer and could be an indicator of another condition such as an enlarged prostate – further tests will therefore help provide an exact diagnosis.
A PSA test is very straightforward and can be done with your GP or a nurse. Alternatively, if you have concerns there are a number of specialist centres where you can be seen by a urology specialist for assessment and any necessary tests and scans.
At GenesisCare we see patients who come to us with little or no knowledge of the different treatments that are now available. Not having that knowledge can make a diagnosis even more frightening, but the truth is that treatment advances mean there are several options that may be available – particularly if diagnosed an at an early stage.
An example of recent innovations is MRI-guided radiotherapy which is exclusively available in the UK from GenesisCare using an innovative machine known as the MRIdian. The treatment combines high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques with extremely precise radiotherapy beams that can treat tumours more accurately than conventional radiotherapy. The MRIdian is considered ground-breaking because it is able to turn on the radiation beam only when the tumour is positioned precisely in the treatment window and turn off the beam in an instant if the tumour moves even by a fraction – helping to protect healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation exposure. No other radiotherapy technology in the UK is currently able to achieve this. This helps to greatly reduce side effects and treatment can be delivered in as few as five sessions.
The technology also means that the 20% of men who have locally recurrent prostate cancer after initial external beam radiotherapy, can now safely and effectively undergo repeat radiotherapy to treat the cancer or control the disease and delay the need for hormone therapy.
Additionally, there is now a highly innovative and personalised approach to prostate cancer treatment called Theranostics that combines diagnostic imaging and radionuclide therapy to seek and destroy advanced cancers without damaging healthy tissue. This is a particularly effective treatment for cancers that are difficult to treat or aren’t responding to conventional therapies.
We encourage anyone who does receive a prostate cancer diagnosis to not be afraid to ask their doctor about all the treatment options available to them or conduct their own research. It’s never a one size fits all approach to cancer and it’s important to find the right treatment for you and your circumstances.