Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, but because the disease develops slowly, there may be no signs you have it for many years.
Symptoms often only become apparent when the prostate is large enough to affect the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis), says the NHS.
When this happens, you may begin to notice symptoms, most of which are linked to your toilet habits.
From an increased need to urinate to straining while urinating, there are seven signs you should watch out for that you could have the disease.
Bupa lists the symptoms of prostate cancer as:
- Unable to urinate (retention)
- Needing to urinate urgently
- Needing to urinate more often than usual
- Getting up to urinate during the night
- Blood in your urine
- A week flow of urine when you go to the toilet
- Trouble starting or stopping when you urinate
If the cancer has spread outside your prostate, other symptoms can develop. These include:
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Feeling tired and generally unwell
- Pain in your bones or your back
- Losing weight
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?
Professor Hashim Ahmed, Consultant Urological Surgeon at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital, is asking men not so shy away from having a prostate check, and details 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.
The first stage of the process is a simple blood test.
A rectal exam can then help identify obvious abnormalities on the surface of the prostate even if the PSA is normal.
Dr Ahmed explains: “If you have a raised PSA, or the rectal exam shows a lump, your doctor may refer you for a MRI scan in a specialised unit, which is a much more effective way of detecting prostate cancer.”
He added that it’s important to note that your PSA can be high if you have prostate cancer but it can also be higher than normal if there is an infection, inflammation or you have a large prostate.
Recent sexual activity before the test or cycling due to the pressure from a saddle can also raise your PSA levels, so make sure your GP is aware of anything that could affect the test.
It’s not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, but a number of things can increase your risk of developing the condition.