It is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in Singapore. Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the sixth leading cause of death among men worldwide. In just 2020 alone, there were 1.41 million new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed worldwide.
What makes prostate cancer so deadly is that in the early stages, prostate cancer shows no symptoms. When symptoms start to show, it is usually because the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis.
Signs to look out for
Some of the signs that may point to prostate cancer include:
- Needing to urinate frequently, especially during the night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in urinating
- Feeling that the bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight loss
- Back pain
It is important to note that having the signs mentioned above does not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer and can be a sign of prostate enlargement, which is a non-cancerous condition that is common in men above the age of 50.
Prostate cancer vs prostate enlargement: What’s the difference?
Dr Neil Forrest, British GP based at Osler Health Star Vista Clinic, notes that prostate enlargement is one of the most common issues faced by men, but symptoms are rare in those under the age of 50. Prostate enlargement can cause bothersome symptoms in about 30% of men, some of which overlap with symptoms of prostate cancer:
- Difficulty in urinating and reduced flow
- Needing to pass urine more frequently, especially during the night
- Needing to go more urgently
- Having to stop and start peeing several times
- A feeling that the bladder has not been fully emptied
If you have some of these signs, there are a number of tests that can be performed to check the prostate. For example, a digital rectal exam is a quick examination with minimal discomfort that can be done in the doctor’s office. A blood test can also be conducted to check for Prostate-Specific Antigens (PSA), the presence of which may indicate prostate abnormalities. In cases of suspected cancer, a biopsy or scan of the prostate can be done.
Prostate cancer risk factors
A risk factor refers to anything that increases your risk of getting a disease, such as cancer. There are a few factors that may increase a man’s risks of getting prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer is uncommon in men under the age of 40, but the risk of having prostate cancer increases rapidly after age 50. About two-thirds of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men aged 65 and above.
Race & Ethnicity
Prostate cancer is more likely to develop in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry. The reasons for these differences are unclear.
Having an immediate family member or relative with prostate cancer can increase a man’s risk of developing the disease greatly. However, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease.
Some studies have indicated that obese men have a higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and eventually succumbing to the disease.
The importance of health screening
As with all other forms of cancer, early diagnosis of prostate cancer allows for treatment to be administered before it spreads and typically results in better outcomes. Due to the fact that prostate cancer shows no symptoms in the early stages, it is essential to go for regular screening so that any abnormalities can be detected early.
Dr Forrest recommends screening for prostate cancer if you are above the age of 50, or have one of the risk factors mentioned above.
Apart from tailored health screening, Osler Health’s men’s health clinic also offers sexual health and mental health services.