Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
1st March 2013
This March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a Prostate Cancer UK initiative to help raise awareness of the condition. The campaign has the aim of raising funds towards prostate cancer research, support and the improvement of available information.
As the most common cancer among men, prostate cancer kills 10,000 people in the UK every year. It is therefore vital that all men, and the women close to them, are aware of the symptoms, causes and treatments of this disease.
Prostate cancer: the facts
Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland, which sits beneath a man’s bladder and wraps around the urethra. Cancer develops when the prostate gland cells are multiplying and growing in an abnormal way.
Every hour, one man dies from prostate cancer, with 1 in 8 men getting the disease in their lifetime. Despite this, 2 out of 3 adults don’t actually know what the prostate gland does. Men need to be able to recognise the most common symptoms of prostate cancer to ensure they catch the disease early on.
Prostate cancer can be slow-growing or aggressive. In slow-growing cases, it’s possible that a man may not experience any noticeable symptom. The innocuous nature of some of the symptoms are another reason why extra vigilance and awareness is essential.
The three main warning signs include:
- New pain in the back, hips or pelvic region
- Erection difficulties
- Blood in the urine or semen
If you do notice any of the above symptoms you must consult a doctor with urgency. benenden health members can access 24/7 GP Advice.
There are four factors that are thought to increase an individual’s risk of getting prostate cancer. These are as follows:
Most cases of prostate cancer are in men over the age of 50, with 70-74 being the average age of a diagnosis. Under 50’s are at a very low risk of developing prostate cancer, but it is still a possibility.
If you have a close relative who has had prostate cancer, you are two and a half times more likely to also develop the disease. This is because some cases of prostate cancers are thought to be caused by a faulty, inherited gene.
Having a close female relative who has had breast cancer can also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. This is because the same inherited gene can increase the risk of both diseases.
In the UK, men of African Caribbean ethnicity are three times more likely to develop the cancer than white men of the same age.
Men who maintain a healthy weight are thought to be less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Eating healthily and leading an active lifestyle are key.
The treatment for prostate cancer will depend on how advanced the cancer has progressed. The options are as follows:
Localised prostate cancer
Localised prostate cancer describes cancer cells that are still contained within the prostate gland. You may not need treatment at this stage and could instead choose to have the cancer monitored either at the GP surgery or in hospital. Removal of the prostate gland is another option.
Locally advanced prostate cancer
This is cancer that has started to break out of the prostate gland, or that has spread to very nearby areas. If the cancer is slow growing, monitoring without treatment may still be an appropriate option. If not, the various different treatments available include:
An operation to remove the prostate gland is one possible treatment.
High energy radiotherapy can be used to destroy and shrink cancer cells.
Hormone therapy stops the production of testosterone, which can help to control prostate cancer. Like all possible prostate cancer treatments, there are side effects to hormone therapy that should be considered.
This involves inserting a high dose rate of radiation into the prostate gland for a few minutes at a time, in order to destroy the cancer cells within.
Various treatments and combinations of treatments should be discussed with your medical practitioner.
Advanced prostate cancer
This is cancer that has spread from the prostate and the immediate surrounding area, to other parts of the body.
In addition to the above, the following treatments may be offered in cases of advanced prostate cancer:
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill the prostate cancer cells. It controls symptoms but does not cure the condition.
This is a new type of advanced hormone therapy that can be used if a patient is not responding to other hormone therapy treatments.
Palliative radiotherapy can be used to slow the growth of advanced prostate cancer.
These are drugs used when the cancer has spread to the bones. They can help to relieve bone pain and also slow the deterioration of the bone.
The above treatments do not cure prostate cancer. They can however relieve symptoms and slow the growth of the cancer cells.
There are several ways to get involved. The most important thing that you can do is equip yourself with the facts about prostate cancer. You can then spread the word more accurately and effectively.
Prostate Cancer UK has information packs freely available, which include leaflets which can be handed out, as well as posters to put up.
Fundraising is vitally important in ensuring that further research can continue into prostate cancer prevention and treatment.
Prostate Cancer UK are currently looking for volunteers to get involved in fundraising at football matches across the country, throughout March and April. Simply head to the website to sign up.
There are many other ways to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK, so why not use Prostate Cancer Awareness Month as an incentive to plan a fundraising event? Sponsored runs, bike rides, parties, sporting events or even skydives are all great ideas.
March also see’s Prostate Cancer UK campaigning to get their quality checklist for the care and support of men with prostate cancer put into use by the NHS. You can help by contacting your local MP to ask for their support.
However you choose to get involved during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the key to reducing the death rate for this common male cancer is to continue to raise funds and raise awareness, both through March and beyond.