Men don’t tend to talk about prostate cancer. In fact, if the word ‘prostate’ is mentioned, most will quickly change the subject. And because we don’t talk about, it is often misunderstood.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men, globally accounting for almost 15% of all cancers that are diagnosed. Incidence increases with age and it is thought that 89% of men who reach age 80 will have prostate cancer.
The good news is that prostate cancer can usually be treated successfully. Thanks to an increase in global screening programs, evidence shows that many cases are caught in the early stages, meaning it is easier to treat and often curable.
But despite its prevalence, prostate cancer remains one of the least talked about cancers. As a result, many different opinions and misconceptions exist around the condition. Here, we explore some of the more common myths about prostate cancer, and aim to set the record straight.
- Myth: Prostate cancer only affects old menWhilst age is one of the risk factors for developing the disease, there are many others that also exist, such as overall health, lifestyle, and family history. Prostate cancer is usually found in older men, but there are still a significant proportion of cases diagnosed in men in their 40s.
- Myth: I have no symptoms, I can’t have cancer In most cases Prostate cancer shows no symptoms in the early stages, and many men are unaware they have it. As it progresses, some men still don’t show symptoms, and those that do are often mistaken for something else. Signs include difficulty urinating, suddenly needing to urinate frequently, painful urination or blood in the urine or semen. As many men don’t show symptoms, it is important to attend regular screening with a urologist, who can identify the early signs.
- Myth: The antigen test won’t help you The prostate-specific antigen involves a blood test that can test for prostate cancer in the very early stages. PSA is produced by the prostate and the level produced increases when there is an abnormality – including cancer – so it acts as a warning sign that something may be wrong. It is often the very first stage in the diagnosis of cancer, and like most cancers, prostate cancer is a lot easier to treat when detected early. Experts therefore strongly recommend regular prostate screening for men in their 40s as a preventative measure.
- Myth: Prostate cancer is a very slow disease and not a cause for concern Whilst many men die with prostate cancer having never known they have it, there are also many more aggressive forms. If screening detects a cancer, your doctor can perform a series of tests to determine exactly how aggressive it is and decide on the best treatment plan. Pioneering treatment options now exist which mean more cancer cases than ever before are treatable, but catching it early is always key to increasing survival rates.
- Myth: It is one of the most curable cancers It is true that if prostate cancer is diagnosed early it is easier to treat, however once it has spread beyond the prostate it is a lot harder to treat. There are also many more aggressive forms of the cancer, which are harder to manage. Early diagnosis is the best way to improve prognosis and outcomes so attending regular screening is vital. Educate yourself on the risk factors and early warning signs, and make sure you see your urologist regularly once you hit 40.
Lots of misconceptions exist around prostate cancer because we don’t talk about it enough. But one thing is clear – screening can save lives, so book an appointment with your urologist today.