What's the problem?
If you are one of those guys who puts off going to see the doctor when there's a health problem you are not alone.
One in four men don't like having to discuss personal issues even with their GP. Tragically, this delay can sometimes lead to fatal consequences.
But things are getting better: generally speaking men in our county are more health conscious today than they were ten years ago and new developments in testing for the likelihood of prostate cancer taking hold are currently in progress.
(Read more at info.cancerresearchuk.org)
Added to that it is clear that more openness in discussing the two most common cancers that affect men has brought a greater awareness of the need for self-examinations.
Approximately 9,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in England and Wales. But what do you actually know about the disease?
Well, the prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that surrounds the bottom part of a man’s bladder. It produces most of the fluid for semen. Some men are more at risk of getting prostate cancer than others.
The top risk factor for prostate cancer is age, with the chance of getting this type of cancer going up as men get older.
African-American men have a higher risk of contracting the disease than Caucasian men. Asian men have the lowest incidence of the disease.
A man's risk is higher if someone in his close family has had prostate cancer.
A man whose diet is high in animal fat or meat may have a greater risk of getting prostate cancer, while eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce that risk.
While being at risk does not mean a man will definitely get prostate cancer, those who do have one or more risk factors should talk to their doctor.
Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms:
One of the problems related to prostate cancer is that, in its early stages, it often does not cause symptoms. Where symptoms do occur they may include any of the following problems:
- Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
- Passing urine more often and/or at night
- Difficulty getting the flow of urine started
- Starting and stopping whilst passing urine
- Discomfort (pain or burning) whilst passing urine
- A feeling of not having emptied the bladder fully
- Dribbling of urine
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in the back, hips or pelvis
The prostate enlarges as men get older, and most men have some symptoms affecting urination. These symptoms can be caused by other conditions that are less serious than prostate cancer, such as a non-cancerous enlarged prostate gland or a kidney infection.
However, it is vital that you do go and see your doctor as soon as possible if you are suffering from any of these symptoms so that the cause can be diagnosed and any relevant treatment administered.
Screening for prostate cancer currently involves:
Having a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test: this is done to measure the level of PSA in the blood of men at risk for prostate cancer. PSA is usually elevated in the presence of prostate cancer. It is recommended yearly for men older than 50 years.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): in this quick and simple test, the doctor feels the prostate gland with a gloved finger in the rectum. The doctor can tell if the prostate is enlarged, has an abnormal texture or has lumps.
Prostate cancer can be cured when treated in its early stages. Treatments include removing the prostate, hormone therapy and radiotherapy (using radiation to kill the cancerous cells).
All the treatment options carry the risk of significant side effects including loss of sexual desire (libido), the inability to maintain or obtain an erection (sexual dysfunction) and urinary incontinence. For this reason, many men decide to delay treatment until there is a significant risk that the cancer might spread.
Dr Chris Parker, clinical oncologist at The Institute of Cancer Research says: "Prostate cancer is unique. It’s the only common solid cancer that is so variable in its behaviour. On the one hand it can be a lethal disease killing one man every hour in the UK, and yet at the same time it can lie dormant for decades without causing any harm at all."
Testicular Cancer (cancer of the testes)
Testicular cancer is one of those taboo subjects that most men would rather not think about - yet alone discuss. It primarily affects younger men and indeed is the most common form of cancer in men aged between 15 and 44.
It is still quite rare, in the UK almost 2,000 new cases a year are reported, but since 1975 the incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled - and no-one yet knows why. Testicular cancer causes around 70 deaths every year in the UK.
The good news is that with treatment testicular cancer is 97% curable. And that figure rises to 99% if the disease is caught in the early stages.
What you can do to help yourself
Get into the habit of carrying out Testicular Self Examination (TSE) regularly once a month. A thorough examination may be easier after a warm bath or shower as the scrotal skin relaxes.
Most lumps found on the testicles are benign but any changes in size, shape or weight should be checked by your GP.
- Support the scrotum in the palm of your hand and become familiar with the size and weight of each testicle.
- Examine each testicle by rolling it between your fingers and thumb. Gently feel for lumps, swellings, or changes in firmness.
- Each testicle has an epididymis at the top which carries sperm to the penis. Don’t panic if you feel this - it’s normal.
- Regular self examination will help you become more aware of the normal feel and size of your testicles so that any abnormalities can be spotted early on.
If you notice anything unusual, go and see your GP as soon as you can.