Every hour in the UK three more men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and at least one will die of the disease. That’s about 37, 000 diagnoses and 11,000 deaths each year.
It is now the most common cancer to affect men.
Many more men have the disease without even knowing it, or experiencing any symptoms. Yet nearly 85% of the public have no idea where the prostate is, what it does or what can go wrong with it.
Age is the strongest factor in the susceptibility to prostate cancer. In other words, the older you get, the more likely you are to get the disease. Since we are all now living longer, this partly reflects the increasing number of cases being identified.
Do we know the cause of prostate cancer?
We do not know why some men get prostate cancer and others do not. As it is a growing phenomenon in the West, there may be a link with the Western lifestyle. There are a number of theories, but no real proof yet of what causes prostate cancer.
Could I have prostate cancer despite having no symptoms?
Yes, you could. It is not uncommon for prostate cancer to be found during regular health checks despite patients having no symptoms whatever. This further emphasises the importance of asking your GP for a PSA test once you reach 50 or even earlier if there is a family history of the disease.
Is time of the essence?
When newly diagnosed, it should be borne in mind that in general, prostate cancer does not grow rapidly at all. This means that there is normally plenty of time to consider and identify the right treatment.
Where can I find out more about the disease?
The booklets you were given at diagnosis provides a useful summary of prostate cancer. If you want to get more information, there are many organisations that provide more detailed advice and also free help lines manned by specialist nurses or volunteer prostate cancer patients.
Can I pass the cancer to others, and will my family inherit it?
Whilst we do not know the cause of the cancer, it is clear that it cannot be passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse. Prostate cancer can however be inherited. Several genes have been identified which may make a man more susceptible to developing the disease. In other words, if you have a brother or father with prostate cancer, then you are more likely to develop the disease than other men.
Is prostate cancer likely to affect my day to day life?
Prostate cancer can affect some men more than others, depending on the stage and severity of the disease. However, most patients with prostate cancer continue to be active at work, at home and in their social life and this is encouraged.
Will the disease affect my sex life?
Prostate cancer itself generally does not affect your sex life, except in the advanced stages. However, the treatment can lead to impotence and this is particularly true for surgery and radiotherapy. There are however many treatments available to overcome this problem and these include tablets, injections and vacuum devices which initiate an erection. Hormone treatment can also affect libido as it reduces the level of testosterone.
What if the cancer is already outside the prostate gland?
Sometimes at diagnosis, the cancer is found to have already spread outside the prostate gland and so cannot be cured by treatments to remove or to treat the prostate. Some cancers grow very slowly and do not require treatment so a process of active surveillance is recommended. In other cases hormone therapy may be started.
What about other treatments?
Research is taking place around the world on developing new treatments for prostate cancer. These include new hormone treatments, chemotherapy, drugs that reduce the blood supply to the cancer, immunotherapy vaccine treatments and gene therapy.
What is the role of local prostate cancer support groups?
Local support groups offer confidential non-medical information and support based on the experiences of fellow sufferers. This information can be provided on the phone or face-to-face or at regular meetings. There are local support groups
What is the role of the Clinical Nurse Specialist?
A clinical nurse specialist can play a vital role in your journey by acting as the link with the medical team looking after you. He/she can offer individualised information and support tailored to your own needs. Find out who he or she is!