November is Movember!

Publish Date: 02/11/2012

Prostate Cancer kills 10,000 men in the UK every year – that’s something like one man per hour - yet research shows that nine out of 10 adults do not even know what the prostate gland does. It is an issue that most men do not have enough information about-including men who have sex with men.

So what is the prostate and what does it do?

Robin Hunter, a retired consultant form Christie’s tells us more about the gland that maybe small but can cause big problems for many men.

“Our prostates are deep in our pelvis behind bones and not accessible to an individual. It is accessible to a doctor examining them from behind through the anus.” says Robin.

“The prostate gland adds a liquid to sperm to dilute the concentrate from the testicle and enable better movement of the sperms after ejaculation. It is an integral part in the sexual organs because of its effect on enabling sperm to function but it is not essential to erection and orgasm.”

 How common is Prostate cancer compared to other conditions like an enlarged prostate?

“The majority of men will get some prostate symptoms as they get older. 1 in 10 men get prostate cancer.4 in every 10 men over 50 will probably experience some kind of prostate problems.

What are the symptoms that men should look out for that could be signs of a potential problem with the prostate?

“Increased frequency of passing urine by day or night, a poor stream, dribbling after urination, pain in the pelvis.”

Should men themselves be asking their doctors for regular check-ups?

Yes because few GPs will offer them. It is an issue of the individual and the population. It is currently not considered "cost effective" to screen the population regularly as e.g. breast and Cervix in women but the truth is the jury is out on the issue and in this age of uncertainty an individual might conclude that they would prefer to have a simple examination and a blood test.

How often and at what age should men be considering having a rectal examination to find out about the health of their prostate?

Men fall into two groups. Those with a father or brother who has had prostate cancer, those of Afro Caribbean origin and those with a family history of genetic breast cancer are high risk (maybe as high as one in four) and they should be screened by their GP by age 50 and, I think, be kept on a regular follow up schedule - maybe 2-3 years. The rest is a point that governments in Europe and N America cannot agree. I think that an initial examination around 50 is reasonable and certainly if there are any symptoms. Beyond that would depend on the findings and the individuals level of concern but a couple of further examinations at 5 and 10 years would establish whether the prostate is stable or growing. 

Long term what are the prospects for men living with prostate health issues?

Excellent, provided they are picked up and dealt with before their is damage to the bladder / urethra. Advanced prostate conditions can lead to chronic urinary/ continence symptoms and , if it is advanced cancer , then long term survival is threatened though there are a lot of new treatments emerging from international research efforts ' particularly over the last year.

For more information on prostate health click here and for testicular cancer click here.