Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. There are around 48,500 new prostate cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s more than 130 every day.

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men. About the size of a Satsuma, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis. The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. It produces a thick white fluid that is mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles, to create semen.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland. Cancer is when abnormal cells start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. The cells can grow into surrounding tissues or organs, and may spread to other areas of the body.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer may not produce any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms of prostate problems can include an increased need to pass urine, straining to pass urine and a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bladder. These symptoms can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlargement of the prostate).

Testing for prostate cancer

There is no prostate cancer screening programme in the UK. Detection of prostate cancer relies on listening to what symptoms you have, PSA blood testing and physical examination of the prostate (digital rectal examination). The clinician may refer you to the hospital for further investigations if needed.

What is PSA testing?

The PSA test is a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by normal cells in the prostate and also by prostate cancer cells. It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood, and the amount rises slightly as you get older and your prostate gets bigger. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but not necessarily cancer.

Men are not routinely offered PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer, as results can be unreliable. Your PSA level can also be raised by other, non-cancerous conditions. Raised PSA levels also cannot tell a doctor whether a man has life-threatening prostate cancer or not.

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Examination of your prostate

This is done by undertaking a digital rectal examination, where the clinician passes a finger into the rectum to feel the prostate. It’s usually very quick and you shouldn’t feel any pain. The clinician should always offer you a chaperone.

Further information

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