WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?

It is a disease which has been regarded for many years as an old man's disease - something that is a slow reactor yet something that many men die with - but not necessarily from.

However as life expectancy has greatly increased - by more than 10 years during the past four decades alone - prostate cancer has become a much greater concern.

Presently, more than 10,000 men are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer, with the majority more than 50 years of age, and it can be expected that more than 2,600 people will die from prostate cancer. However, there has been a significant increase of younger men now contracting the disease and people, especially those that have a family history, should consider PSA testing from 40 years of age.

Should the cancer have been diagnosed early enough, many of the men would have survived. There are now so many ways of curing a man with prostate cancer and early detection and promotion of the disease has become a much more important aspect in overcoming this major disease.

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate makes and stores a component of semen and is located below the bladder and in front of the bowel. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut and if the prostate grows too large, it can affect the flow of the urine. A doctor, by inserting the finger into the anus, can detect anomalies that may be associated with prostate cancer.

There are several aspects of the prostate that could suggest that testing is necessary.

1. Sudden need to urinate

2. Frequent urination, especially at night

3. Slow flow of urine and difficulty in stopping

4. Problems in beginning to urinate

5. Painful, ejaculation

6. Pain when urinating (a burning sensation)

7. Inability to gain an erection

8. Decrease in libido

9. Blood in the urine

10. Frequent pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs

Any men who experience one of the above on a regular basis should consult a doctor immediately. Early diagnosis and subsequent treatment may save potentially lethal health problems. A doctor can either perform a physical test if necessary or organise a blood test to determine if a problem exists.

The symptoms above could be related to the following:

  1. Prostate Cancer - is potentially a life threatening disease that can develop even without any of the symptoms above. Regular testing should be undertaken on an annual basis for men when they turn 40.

  2. Prostate cancer is the condition in which cells of the prostate reproduce more rapidly than in normal prostate, creating swelling or a tumour. The prostate cancer cells eventually break out of the prostate and attack different parts of the body producing secondary tumours.

•  Prostatitis - is the inflammation of the prostate and is the least common, found generally in younger men. It can be treated, generally by antibiotics.

• Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia is the enlargement of the prostate and found more often in older men. The enlarging of the prostate causes the urethra to be squashed and passing of urine becomes quite difficult. Treatment may be with antibiotics but some cases may need an operation to widen the urethral passage. This is undertaken by an instrument that is passed up through the urethra through the penis and parts of the prostate is removed. It is performed under general anaesthetic and will need several days of hospitalisation.