Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK and because it develops slowly there may be no signs you have it in the early stages.
Symptoms often become apparent when your prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine form the bladder to the penis – the urethra.
As a result of pressure on the urethra, symptoms are usually associated with urination.
According to Bupa, one of the signs to look for is blood in your urine.
Other symptoms of prostate cancer are also linked to toilet habits. These include being unable to urinate, needing to urinate more often than usual, getting up to urinate during the night, and pain when you urinate.
A weak flow of urine when you go to the toilet and trouble starting or stopping when you urinate can also be indicators.
If the cancer has spread outside your prostate other symptoms can develop – difficulty getting an erection, feeling tired and generally unwell, pain in your bones or your back, and losing weight.
The healthcare group adds: “As men get older, the prostate gland gets bigger naturally. The can cause a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This and prostate cancer can have some similar symptoms.
“It is also possible to have the early stages of prostate cancer, but still to experience the symptoms, if you have BPH as well.”
If you have any of these symptoms you should contact your GP.
The PSA test is the recommended method for checking if you have the disease. But what does it entail – is it a blood test, a urine sample or a rectal examination, and does it come with any risks?
Dr Sam Rodgers, GP and Medical Director at Medichecks, sheds light on what to expect from the test.
Men over the age of 50 who have talked through the advantages and disadvantages of having a PSA test with their GP or practice nurse are eligible for a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.
While it’s highly recommended by doctors to have, Dr Rodgers says the test does carry some risks.
He said: “Modern prostate biopsies involve taking anywhere from 10 to 50 biopsies of the prostate depending upon the method used. These can cause pain, bleeding, infection, and may cause sexual problems in a small number of men.
“If we take 100 men with an abnormal PSA (using the traditional cut-off of 4.0ng/ml) and subject them all to a biopsy then approximately 30 of them will be found to have prostate cancer on the biopsy. The other 70 men have had a false positive result.
“If we take 100 men who have a negative result (using the same cut off point) then 15 of them will later be found to have prostate cancer (they have had a false negative result). So there is a risk that we provide false reassurance to men who need investigation and treatment for cancer.”
Dr Rodgers said there has been some further work to improve the normal ranges so that there are less false negative results, but the problem with doing this is that the false positive rate will rise, resulting in more men having prostate biopsies that they don’t need.
He added: “Some PSA tests include both a measure of the total PSA and the PSA that is not bound to proteins in the blood (free PSA).
“Free PSA tends to increase with innocent conditions so measuring both can help to interpret the total PSA results that sit between 4 and 10, and so reduce the number of men undergoing prostate biopsies that are not needed.”
This Morning doctor, Dr Chris Steele, recommends that people have the PSA test.
So what happens during a PSA test?