Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men, with more than 19,000 men diagnosed each year. The risk increases with age and is higher in men with a first degree relative with prostate cancer, particularly if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 60 years.

Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells within the prostate grow in an uncontrolled way, forming a tumour.  This can then press on or block the bladder or urethra, causing problems with urination and sexual function.  In some cases, the cancer can spread quickly and to other parts of the body.  However prostate cancer is usually slow growing and most men live for many years without symptoms and without it spreading and becoming life-threatening.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Frequent urination, including overnight
  • Difficulties urinating, including a weak or interrupted flow
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the lower back or pelvic area

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to see your doctor, who will usually do a blood test (called the prostate specific antigen, or PSA test) and/or a digital rectal examination to check the size of the prostate and if there are any abnormalities.   If either of these indicate that you may be at risk, you’ll be referred for a biopsy which is the only way that a definite diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made.  However these symptoms don’t mean you have cancer and for many men they are instead caused by a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate.

If you’re a man over 50 years, or over 40 years with a family history of prostate cancer, speak to your GP about whether you should be tested for prostate cancer as part of your annual health checkup.

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