How to Check for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer happens when abnormal cells appear and start to grow in the prostate (a gland that sits below the bladder and helps produce the fluid part of semen).1,2 These cells can start to uncontrollably multiply, sometimes spreading to other parts of the body.1
In the United States, prostate cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in men.3 In 2023, an estimated 288,300 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Luckily, prostate cancer also has one of the highest survival rates.1 Still, as a man you should be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of prostate cancer so you can seek advice from a healthcare professional sooner rather than later.
What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?
The first thing to be aware of is your age. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases the older you get. The risk of getting prostate cancer grows from 1 in 7 to 1 in 6 between the ages of 75 to 85.1,3
Secondly, look at your family history. There is a higher chance of developing prostate cancer if a male in your family has developed it.1 This also applies if there is a history of breast or ovarian cancer - particularly those related to BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.4
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
The tricky thing about prostate cancer is that there may be no symptoms early on. They may appear once the cancer grows big enough to start causing issues - which may take a while as prostate cancer can either be very slow growing, or very fast and aggressive.1,2,4
Things to look out for include:1,4
- Needing to frequently urinate without warning
- Discomfort or Difficulty urinating (trouble starting or needing to go but nothing coming out or only being able to produce a trickle)
- Needing to get up and urinate throughout the night or feeling like you need to go even after you just went
- Seeing blood when you urinate or ejaculate
- Pain in your lower back, upper thighs or hips or in your bones
- Unexplained weight loss
Of course, these symptoms don’t always mean prostate cancer - but it is important to report them to a doctor and get yourself checked out just in case.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
Your doctor will let you know what tests they think you should have. In general, there are three ways of checking for an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer:1,2
- Digital rectal examination - this is the one where the doctor puts their finger into your rectum to feel the size of the prostate gland
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test - a blood test that measures the level of prostate specific antigen (a protein made by your prostate gland)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a scan of your prostate to check for abnormalities
- Prostate biopsy - where a small piece of your prostate is taken to look for cancer cells - this is the only way to get a definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer
- Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. What you need to know about prostate cancer. Available from: https://www.pcfa.org.au/awareness/general-information/general-information-resources/ (accessed August 2023).
- HealthDirect. Prostate Cancer. April 2022. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/prostate-cancer (accessed August 2023).
- Cancer Council. Understanding prostate cancer. Reviewed March 2022. Available from: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/prostate-cancer/about-prostate-cancer/ (accessed August 2023).