Embarrassment may sound like a trivial reason for staying away from your doctor, the results, particularly where prostate cancer is concerned, can be deadly serious. 

Prostate cancer in the UK

According to charity Prostate Cancer UK, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Over 42,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year and 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point their lives.

Suresh Rambaran, Specialist Nurse at Prostate Cancer UK advises ‘Unusual symptoms such as needing to go to the toilet often, especially at night, or difficulty passing urine and having a weak flow. Or finding that it takes longer to urinate, or the bladder still doesn’t feel empty after might be a sign something is wrong. It’s important to go to your GP and have these checked if you have these symptoms.”

However it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. The condition Benign Prostate Enlargement (BPE) is more common and causes the same symptoms. A bladder condition, kidney problems and even diabetes can cause some of these symptoms too.

 

Why the embarrassment?

One test for prostate cancer involves your GP examining your prostate gland, which is under the bladder and accessed via your rectum.

Your GP will need to put a gloved finger into your rectum to check your prostate for changes. This is the part some men may find embarrassing.

Suresh Ramabaran explains from personal experience, "A rectal examination, from my own experience, isn’t painful. We often have men calling us asking about this test. It might be slightly embarrassing, but doctors do this all the time, and it could save your life."

Other tests involved in checking for prostate problems, includes a urine test, to find out if you have any infections. Your doctor will also carry out a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test on a sample of your blood.

PSA is a protein released by your prostate. PSA levels rise with age and if there is something wrong with your prostate. However, raised levels doesn’t mean you have cancer. 

 

What next?

If your GP feels you need further investigation they may refer you to the hospital for more tests. This doesn’t mean you have cancer, your doctor may just not be entirely happy with the results of tests so far.

Further tests may include a biopsy, the most accurate way of finding out if you have prostate cancer. A biopsy can diagnose cancer at an early stage, when treatment is likely to be more effective.

You may also be offered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and bone scan, as further checks on whether you have cancer or to see if any cancer has spread.

 

 

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