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Men's Healthcare Q4 2021

The importance of early detection of prostate cancer

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Mrs. Sarah Collen

EAU Policy Manager

Prof. Dr. Hein Van Poppel

EAU Policy Office European Urology Association

In recent years, prostate cancer related deaths have been rising again despite the improved diagnostic pathways and treatments available. It is crucial that prostate cancer is detected early to increase the chances of survival. 

The prostate is a gland located under the bladder and surrounding the urethra. A healthy prostate has the size of a walnut. The main job of the prostate is to help make and push out semen – the fluid that carries sperm from the testicles.

Prostate cancer occurs when the cells in the prostate reproduce more rapidly than normal, resulting in a tumour. Prostate cancer can grow slowly and may never cause any problems. However, in some men it can spread uncontrollably into surrounding tissues and to other parts of the body. Therefore, a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test is critical for the early detection of prostate cancer.

What is a PSA test? 

A PSA test is a simple blood test to check the PSA levels in the bloodstream. A PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland that is present in a man’s blood. PSA levels rise in case of a benign enlargement of the prostate, an infection of the prostate or prostate cancer. The test can be done by your family doctor or urologist. It will show if you are at risk of getting/having prostate cancer and is the only way to find it in an early stage.

If you have reached the age of 50, you should talk to your doctor about PSA testing.

Who is at risk?

The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease that only affects older men. Men of African descent and those who have a family history are two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer.

If you have reached the age of 50, you should talk to your doctor about PSA testing. If you are of African descent or have a family history with prostate cancer, you should do this at age 45.

Why is early detection important? 

Unless it is far advanced, prostate cancer shows no clear symptoms and men are normally not aware of it. Early detection is aimed at finding prostate cancer in an early stage when it can still be cured and stopped from moving to an advanced stage.

The risk of taking a PSA test is that a high PSA level does not always mean that you have prostate cancer. Active surveillance is the most appropriate treatment plan in this case. A doctor then closely watches the cancer but doesn’t give any treatment.

You can find more information on prostate cancer at patients.uroweb.org 

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