Prostate - Small change could be a Big difference
Updated: Mar 19
In our last blog, we highlighted the new year need for resolution and change but not in dramatic, big change, short sighted measures, but rather small change, manageable habit, big goal measures.
As part of our small step – BIG difference this month, we are drilling down (not literally!) on the prostate.
The risk of prostate cancer significantly increases in men over 50 and this risk increases as you age. It is the second biggest cancer killer for men in the UK with about 50,000 men diagnosed each year and 12,000 deaths – which is as many as breast cancer in women. In about 30% of those diagnosed, the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body by the time treatment has started. The more positive news is that more than 75% of men will survive with the disease for 10 years or more when diagnosed and treated. You are most at risk of prostate cancer if you are over 50, have a close family member with prostate cancer or of black ethnic origin.
Us men are not alone when it comes to worries and threats to our man organs. From an earlier age women have routine, invasive, triennial smear tests to check the health of their cervix and to detect cancer in that area. We ALL need to be proactive when it comes to servicing our body.
So, what is the prostate and what does it do?
The prostate gland is the walnut-sized organ tucked away in your nether regions (just below the bladder and in front of the rectum) that does the vital job of producing fluid that nourishes and transports your sperm. Therefore, it is one of the body parts that most definitely deserves our attention and service, but seldom gets it. One of the reasons for this, is where it is in the body and how it can be accessed properly, which is via your anus. Think about how many times us guys are anal (excuse the pun!) about opening up the bonnet of our car and checking everything is ship shape, well then, let’s face it, our actual body shops are definitely more deserving of lifting the hood every now and again and taking a look!
What are the common signs of prostate problems?
1. If you need to wee more often than usual, especially at night-time.
2. If you have difficulty starting to urinate.
3. If you have a weak flow.
4. If you have a sudden urge to wee.
But most men with early prostate cancer will have NO symptoms at all.
How do I get my prostrate checked?
Phone your doctor and book an appointment with your GP or nurse practitioner.
In the UK, men over 50 are eligible to have a prostate test for free on the NHS, but anyone who is concerned can make an appointment and ask for testing.
If you are at a higher risk of prostate cancer due to familial history then checking/testing should be carried out earlier, from age 40-45.If you have private healthcare cover, make sure you request a prostate check to be included in your annual wellness check-up.
What are the initial tests to check the prostate?
You should be offered to 2 initial tests – a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and a PSA blood test.
The DRE is usually the worrisome part for a lot of men as the ‘bend over and drop your pants’ scenario may not sound the most appealing. The ‘digital’ part of this test is, in fact not what I had envisioned, as I imagined a techy, metal probe coming towards my nether regions. But no, literally, digital stands for the simple digit – belonging to the doctor or nurse (gloved and lubricated of course!) – which is inserted into your rectum to check the size, symmetry, for any lumps, firmness and texture of your prostate. This examination usually takes seconds - less than a minute and should not be painful. You'll be aware of some pressing which may make you feel a brief urge to urinate so an empty bladder before the exam is probably best! Your whole appointment with the doctor will take minutes and the part you maybe dreading will literally take seconds, so relax.
The PSA Blood Test measures the levels of prostate specific antigen, one of the compounds produced by the prostate, in your blood. It’s normal for all men to have some PSA in their blood but a high level of PSA can be a sign of prostate infection, enlargement or cancer.
PSA levels can be affected by sexual activity and vigorous exercise, such as cycling, so it is best to lay off these activities for at least 2 days before you are tested.
A PSA test can help pick up early-stage prostate cancer before you have any symptoms and before it travels somewhere else, but the test can be unreliable on its own and can miss detecting cancer or give false positive readings. A PSA test alone is not a fool-proof way to detect cancer which is why both initial physical and blood tests are necessary to assess whether more in depth testing is needed, such as an MRI or biopsy. A prostate biopsy is the only method at present which can give you a definite confirmation of prostate cancer.
But there is hope for the future with a recent breakthrough of a new ‘Trublood’ test which is being evaluated at present. It is a more accurate blood test that will screen and detect this disease early on. The results so far show great promise that this could be the next great leap for prostate cancer detection.
Gentlemen, get check out. The first step is often the hardest, but this step if taken, might just save your ass!
Be attentive and intentional about your man organs – your awareness of any small changes might just help prevent more grievous threats.
Or as Rod Stewart put it, after winning a 2-year battle against prostate cancer,
“Guys, you’ve got to really go to the doctor.”
“Finger up the bum, no harm done.”
“I’m in the clear, now, simply because I caught it early.”