Common ailments

Prostate cancer

I am 52 years old and a couple of years ago I lost my father-in-law to prostate cancer. I want to be aware of the signs to look out for but wouldn’t know where to begin in terms of self-examination for prostate cancer.

The male prostate gland is a male sex gland that is located at the back of the bladder and surrounds the tube that transports urine from the bladder. The gland tends to enlarge with age, particularly from the age of about 40, and this can lead to symptoms such as needing to urinate more frequently, difficulty starting the flow of urine, the flow of urine is not as forceful as it used to be, an increased feeling of urgency to empty the bladder or a feeling that you have not emptied your bladder fully. Although any of the above symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, they don’t mean that you have prostate cancer but more likely just an enlarged prostate. 

Men who have first degree male relatives (such as a father or brother) who have had prostate cancer, or men from certain racial groups (such as those with an African or Caribbean heritage), are at a slightly increased risk of developing prostate cancer and if you are in one of these higher risk groups it is worth discussing your risk with your GP now you are over 40.

If you are not in one of these higher risk groups but you have some urinary symptoms, I suggest that you make an appointment to see your GP to discuss your concerns and to have a prostate assessment and examination if your GP feels it is appropriate. Your GP's examination can assess the size of the prostate and to exclude any features suggestive of cancer or inflammation of the gland. This is not easy to do yourself or to interpret what you might feel so I do not advise self-examination.

 

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