Prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in UK. Lets look at the basics of this disease and how you can look for the warning signs.
Statistics show that about 1 in 8 men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. We don’t know exactly what causes prostate cancer but there are some things that may mean you are more likely to get it – these are called risk factors.
Two of the main risk factors are age and family history.
- Age – Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and the risk increases as you get older. The most common age for diagnosis is 65 to 69. It is still possible to be diagnosed if you are under 50, though the risk is low.
- Family history
- If people in your family have prostate cancer or breast cancer, it might increase your own risk of getting prostate cancer. This is because you may have inherited the same faulty genes.
- If your father or brother has had prostate cancer, you are 2.5 times more likely to get it than a man with no relatives who have had it.
- Your risk of getting prostate cancer may be higher if your relative was under 60 when they got it, or if your mother or sister had breast cancer.
- Having a family history does not mean that you will get prostate cancer, but it is important to contact your GP if you have a history in your family.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland, usually the size and shape of a walnut, which grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate’s main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer can develop when cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way. Some prostate cancer grows too slowly to cause any problems or affect how long you live. Because of this, many men with prostate cancer will never need any treatment. But some prostate cancer grows quickly and is more likely to spread. This is more likely to cause problems and needs treatment to stop it spreading.
What are the Warning Signs?
Prostate cancer that’s contained inside the prostate (called localised prostate cancer or early prostate cancer) doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know about your risk.
But some men might have urinary problems. These can be mild and happen over many years and may be a sign of a benign prostate problem, rather than prostate cancer.
Some signs to look out for include:
- difficulty starting to urinate or emptying your bladder
- a weak flow when you urinate
- a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly
- dribbling urine after you finish urinating
- needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
- a sudden need to urinate – you may sometimes leak urine before you get to the toilet.
If prostate cancer breaks out of the prostate (locally advanced prostate cancer) or spreads to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer), it can cause other symptoms, including:
- back pain, hip pain or pelvis pain
- problems getting or keeping an erection
- blood in the urine or semen
- unexplained weight loss.
Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting Prostate Cancer?
A healthy diet and regular exercise are important for health in general, and might help lower your risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The latest research suggests that being overweight may increase your risk of being diagnosed prostate cancer. Eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping physically active can help you stay a healthy weight, and so might help to lower your risk.
Whilst there is no evidence to confirm that any particular food can prevent prostate cancer, it has been suggested that the following may help to lower your risk:
- Pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils and soya foods
- Foods containing lycopene such as tomatoes and tomato products
- Foods containing selenium such as brazil nuts, fish, seafood, liver and kidney
- Vitamin E, such as nuts, seeds, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables and avocados.
It is always a good idea to choose a balanced diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you require.
Any foods I should avoid?
- Dairy foods – Eating or drinking lots of dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, might increase your risk of prostate cancer. Aim for no more than three portions a day.
- Calcium – Too much calcium may increase your risk of getting prostate cancer. You still need about 700mg a day to keep your bones healthy – this can be achieved from a balanced healthy diet.
- Processed and red meat – Eating red and processed meat increases your risk of some types of cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating no more than 500g of cooked red meat per week (700 to 750g when raw), and avoiding processed meat.
- Alcohol – Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to 14 units a week. This is about six pints of average-strength or six small glasses (175ml) of average-strength wine. Try to spread this out throughout the week and have some alcohol-free days.
- Cigarettes – if you smoke, you may be more likely to get an aggressive type of prostate cancer that is more likely to grow and spread to other parts of the body, and so you may be more likely to die from prostate cancer, if you get it.
For more information about prostate cancer, and how you can get involved with raising awareness, visit the Prostate Cancer UK website.