THIS month is prostate cancer awareness month, also known as Movember, and we here at the Irish Cancer Society are urging all men over 50 to take a half an hour to have a conversation with their doctor about prostate cancer.
Each year, more than 3,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland, with approximately 445 of these being from Cork. This means about one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.
However, the positive news is that with improvements in treatments the five year survival rate for prostate cancer is now over 90%.
In checking for prostate cancer, historically there was a tendency to do a PSA test on anyone who was concerned about having prostate cancer or displaying some symptoms. However, new guidelines from the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) recommend that PSA tests are not to be used as a general screening for prostate cancer, but to confirm a diagnosis or to dictate treatment.
Rather than insisting on a test, I would strongly urge all men over 50 to simply take some time to have a conversation with their GP. Men over 50 are more at risk of getting the disease and, even if they are asymptomatic, it is worth having that chat, as early prostate cancer often does not have any symptoms at all.
We know that sometimes men are slow to go to their doctor if they are worried. But prostate cancer is very treatable and the earlier it is detected, the better. This is why men need to be having yearly check-ups, particularly if they have a family history of prostate cancer.
Often, men who have raised PSA readings and a type of low grade cancer, decide not to have surgery and instead follow Active Surveillance. This involves regular consultant visits, blood tests and a biopsy every three years to check on the status of the cancer.
What is vitally important when it comes to prostate cancer is that men feel they have adequate support, particularly emotional support. If it’s a case that there is a diagnosis, it is really important to use the patient support groups in the community. Patients and survivors can find great comfort and support in meeting and talking to other men who had been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer and were living normal lives 15+ years after the diagnoses.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown at present. But there are things called risk factors that can increase your chance of getting the disease. Risk factors for prostate cancer include:
Age: Your risk increases as you get older. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer are aged over 50.
Family history: Men whose brother or father developed prostate cancer at a young age have an increased risk.
Race: African-American and African-Caribbean men are more at risk than other ethnic groups.
Diet: Men who eat a lot of red meat and high-fat dairy products and not enough green vegetables may have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. A healthy diet can reduce your risk of cancer. Find out what makes a healthy diet and what foods to avoid.
Be physically active: Physical activity can help reduce your risk of cancer. Find out how being active can reduce your risk.
Be a healthy weight: Being a healthy weight is one of the best ways to protect yourself from cancer. Find out more about body weight and cancer.
In terms of the symptoms to look out for, early prostate cancer doesn’t normally cause any symptoms. Prostate cancer usually only causes symptoms when it has grown large enough to disturb your bladder and these symptoms are called prostate urinary symptoms.
Prostate urinary problems can include a slow flow of urine; trouble starting or stopping the flow; passing urine more often, especially at night; pain when passing urine; and feeling of not emptying your bladder fully.
Less common symptoms of prostate cancer can include: pain in your lower back, hips or upper thighs; trouble having or keeping an erection; and/or blood in the urine or semen.
It is really important to visit your GP if you have any worries or if you have any of these symptoms so that they can be discussed and assessed. If any of this concerns you, you can speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of cancer by calling the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email email@example.com or drop into one of 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide. For information on Daffodil Centre locations and opening times email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For us here at the Irish Cancer Society, November means Movember. Since 2008, more than 100,000 people have got involved and contributed to the Movember cause. Movember Ireland has funded over 30 prostate cancer initiatives, in partnership with the Irish Cancer Society, ranging from financial grants for patients and their families to ground-breaking research that has united the prostate cancer research community to improve outcomes and quality of life for the 1 in 7 Irish men who will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. You can sign up now to support men’s health by visiting movember.com
For more information log onto www.cancer.ie