Column: Risk factors and symptoms of prostate cancer

Andy Symes is a consultant urologist
Andy Symes is a consultant urologist

March is Prostate Cancer Awareness month which puts the spotlight on this silent killer.

Mr Andy Symes, consultant urologist at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove, urges men to recognise the risk factors and take control of their own health.

He said: “In my experience, it is often the partners of men with a prostate problem who encourage them to finally go and see their GP. However, I know when I reach the age of 45 to 50, I will book myself in for prostate tests as part of a well man health check – whether I have a prostate problem or not.

“There are very significant risk factors for prostate cancer and men need to be proactive if they are in a risk group. These include age, a family history of prostate cancer, and ethnicity - one in four black men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives compared with the one in eight chance among other men. And obesity is now strongly linked with an increased cancer risk.

“If you are worried about your risks or are experiencing any symptoms that are not normal for you, then book an appointment with your GP. They can discuss your risk factors and explain the tests available.

“The prostate cancer is now the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. Until a reliable national screening programme is available, like it is for breast and cervical cancer, men need to take charge of their own health. Early detection saves lives.”

Risk factors

You may be more likely to get prostate cancer if:

- you are aged 45 or over – and your risk increases as you get older.

- you’re a black man over 45.

- your father or brother has had it. Or if your mother or sister has had breast cancer, particularly if they were diagnosed under the age of 60 and had faults in genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2

- you’re overweight or obese, you might have a higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer that’s aggressive (more likely to spread) or advanced (spread outside the prostate).

Symptoms of a prostate problem

These could be a sign of cancer or more likely be the sign of an enlarged prostate which is also treatable.

- needing to urinate more often than usual, including at night

- difficulty starting to urinate

- straining or taking a long time to finish urinating

- a weak flow when you urinate

- a feeling that you’re not emptying your bladder fully

Tests for prostate problems

- a urine test to rule out a urine infection

- a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test

- a digital rectal examination (DRE)

Don’t panic if your first PSA test is raised, it doesn’t necessarily mean cancer. Of those with a raised PSA level, only 30 per cent are likely to have prostate cancer. Your GP may recommend further tests including an MRI scan.

Andy Symes is a consultant urologist and holds clinics at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove on Wednesday mornings. For more information visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or phone 01273 828 148.