Who does it affect?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK; although, unlike other cancers, it is not linked to any preventable risk factors. Ethnicity plays a part, however. “No one really knows what the main cause is,” says Dr Vincent Khoo, Consultant in Clinical Oncology at the Cancer Centre London. “There is a genetic disposition to prostate cancer in some family trees; and if you look at western society instances are quite high — but low in Asian countries.”

One thing is certain: as you increase in age, so does your risk of developing prostate cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, by the age of 80 many men will have some cancer cells in their prostate — but only 1 in 25 will die from the disease. “Generally speaking, as you get older you are likely to get incidental prostate cancer which will not take your life away,” says Dr Khoo.

Symptoms

Whatever age you are, early detection is key. A blood test measures a patient's PSA (prostate specific antigen) level which can be raised in instances of prostate cancer; and a doctor will also examine the prostate to feel if it is enlarged — but, as Dr Khoo explains, unless the disease is advanced, they will not necessarily notice a lump. “Often, most men who have a raised PSA will not have any symptoms,” says Dr Khoo. “That is the difficulty. But the signs you should get checked out are a slowing of your waterworks so that spending a penny takes minutes, having to get up at night to pass water more frequently, or finding that you are not emptying your bladder well. Rarely, other symptoms may be blood in the semen or erections that aren't as strong.”

Development in treatments

The good news is that there have been huge developments in terms of prostate cancer treatments recently. “Standard conventional treatments are either surgery or radiation treatment,” says Dr Khoo. “Surgery has advanced incredibly. With robot-assisted prostatectomy, surgeons are able to see better and offer nerve-sparing procedures so that the patient has better return of their erectile function. Usually, as the disease becomes more advanced, radiation treatment is the better option. We even have a robot now that can deliver seeds (of radioactive material) to within .1 of a milimetre accuracy.”