Around 1 in 10 New Zealand men will develop prostate cancer at some stage in their lifetime.
Here’s what you should know:
- Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among New Zealand men.
- If found early, men with prostate cancer have a better chance of successful treatment
- Each year over Kiwi 4,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and approximately 700 men die from it.
- 80% of diagnoses are for men aged 60 or over.
- Prostate cancer frequently does not produce any symptoms until the condition is quite advanced; it’s often found after treatment is sought for problems with urinary function
- The incidence of prostate cancer in New Zealand is increasing.
- The causes of prostate cancer are still not fully understood.
- There are a range of tests your doctor can arrange which can determine if you have or may be developing prostate cancer.
- These include the PSA test, physical examination and ultrasound testing. All are painless, simple and easy to get underway.
- The earlier you get on to it, the better your chances of beating prostate cancer will be.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer develops when cells in the prostate gland grow abnormally, and can spread either locally or around the body.
Anything that can increase your risk is called a risk factor. Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop prostate cancer.Some of these risk factors can’t be changed (e.g. older age); others can (e.g. being overweight).The risk factors for prostate cancer are:
- age: the risk of prostate cancer increases from age 50
- a close family member, like a father or brother, had prostate cancer
- Lynch syndrome (a rare genetic disorder)
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms
There may be no warning signs that you have prostate cancer. Some signs and symptoms may include:
- weak urine flow when urinating (peeing)
- a flow that stops and starts
- needing to urinate urgently or more often than usual
- trouble starting or stopping pee
- getting up often during the night to pee
- burning when urinating
- blood in urine or semen
- pain during urination
- lower back or pelvic pain
- unexplained weight loss.
It is important to note, problems with urination are common as men get older. This is usually due to prostate enlargement that is not cancer.
Finding prostate cancer early
Prostate cancer is common, and finding it early can save lives, but not all prostate cancer needs to be treated. Some men, such as those who are older, have other medical problems or whose cancer is slow growing, are more likely to die with prostate cancer than from it.
Here’s a great tool to help you decide if you need to get tested: kupe.net.nz .
The most common tests used to investigate prostate cancer symptoms are the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam (DRE).
A PSA blood test measures the level of PSA in your blood. The prostate gland makes PSA. Higher than normal levels of PSA can be caused by:
- an infection of the prostate gland
- an enlarged prostate (not cancer) or
- by prostate cancer.
A DRE is when the doctor feels the prostate (using a gloved, lubricated finger) through the wall of the rectum (bottom). They feel for any lumps or hard areas on the prostate. It usually only takes a few minutes.
The PSA test and DRE do not diagnose cancer. They can indicate that you may need further investigations when will most likely be referred to a specialist for an MRI scan (that takes pictures of your prostate) or a biopsy. A biopsy involves taking tiny samples of the prostate tissue with a long fine needle. This tissue is then examined in a laboratory to ascertain whether there is any cancer in your prostate gland.
When a man is suspected of having prostate cancer, the first medical specialist he will see is a urologist.
Further tests will be recommended if there is a chance that cancer in your prostate has spread to other parts of your body. These tests may include:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- bone scans.