Movember is here; this campaign to promote awareness of prostate cancer just gets bigger and bigger every year.
It’s loads of fun watching your friends and family grow a wide variety of moustaches to raise money. But would you really know if you were showing signs of prostate cancer? At Kegel8 we’re experts in prostate problems – read on to find out if you need to see a doctor.
First thing’s first – what is the prostate gland?
Unfortunately, the prostate is still something many men don’t know much about. So, where is the prostate gland? It’s just underneath your bladder, in the space between your rectum and the inner parts of your penis. The function of the prostate is to create semen, the fluid that carries your sperm when you ejaculate. Only men have a prostate and prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men, with over 42,000 cases a year in the UK alone. There is roughly one man dies from prostate cancer every minute in the UK however its not all doom and gloom, the survival rate from prostate cancer after 5 years is 84% which is the 3rd highest survival rate of any cancer.
Am I at risk of prostate cancer?
You could be – the causes of prostate cancer aren’t really certain, but there are a few risk factors you should be aware of:
- Age: it’s more common in men over the age of 50
- Race: if you are of Afro-Caribbean or African descent you have a higher risk
- Family history: if your father or brother had prostate cancer before they were 60 you may be at risk
- Lifestyle: obesity and lack of exercise have been linked to cancer of the prostate
It is important for all men to be aware of their prostate health as you have a 1 in 8 chance of developing prostate cancer. The actor Ben Stiller has been in the news recently as he revealed that he had a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2014. At the time, he was 46 years old, fit and healthy and he has no family history of the disease. This goes to show how important it is to stay aware of the symptoms of prostate cancer.
Ok, so what are the symptoms for prostate cancer?
Frequent urination in men is the main sign of prostate cancer. This is because of where your prostate is – if there is a tumour on it then it will put pressure on your bladder and urethra. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, then it’s a good idea to see a doctor:
- Urinating often - including during the night
- Urge incontinence – having to suddenly rush to the toilet
- Trouble urinating – being unable to start peeing or having to strain to wee
- Weak flow – taking a long time to wee
- Finding blood in semen or urine
- Feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bladder
- Pain in the lower back and pelvic area
Prostate cancer only has symptoms if it has progressed quite far - the tumour must have grown big enough to cause urinary problems for you to be experiencing these symptoms. Ben Stiller had no symptoms at all and was just fortunate to be given a test by his doctor.
What’s involved in a prostate cancer test?
There are two main ways to diagnose prostate cancer. The one that tends to cause sniggers is the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE). This is exactly what it sounds like – your doctor will insert a (gloved!) finger into your anus to feel if the surface of your prostate gland is hard or bumpy; a sign of prostate cancer. Once you are over the age of 50 this is often done as a routine part of medical check-ups. A lot of men are resistant to having this test, but it only takes a few seconds and is just a little bit uncomfortable, not painful. If you feel embarrassed by the idea of having a DRE, just remember that it’s something most men have had done at least once and it could save your life – isn’t that worth a few seconds of discomfort?
Ben Stiller was diagnosed via a PSA test. This is a blood test that measures the amount of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is produced by healthy prostates, but if there are cancer cells present you will have higher levels of it. The PSA test is a little bit controversial as it’s not totally reliable and can lead to a false diagnosis. If your GP is concerned that you may have prostate cancer, then he or she will usually do a PSA in combination with other tests like a urine sample and a rectal exam.
What happens if I am diagnosed with cancer?
Getting a cancer diagnosis is really scary for you and your loved ones, but it means that your disease can begin to be treated. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better your prognosis. Around 1 in 5 cases of prostate cancer is fast growing, requiring surgery or radiotherapy. But in many cases, prostate cancer doesn’t need to be treated. If your doctor decides that your cancer is low risk, then you may just need to keep an eye on your symptoms and have regular tests.
However, if you are living with prostate cancer then you can develop other prostate problems. These include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction; they can also be side effects of prostate cancer treatment like surgery. If you’re experiencing prostate cancer incontinence or having issues getting or maintaining an erection, then pelvic floor exercises will help.
By doing regular male Kegel exercises you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These are easy to do by yourself; it is the same action you would use to stop the flow of urine when you're going to the toilet. You will feel a pulling sensation as your muscles contract. Here's a good starter kegel routine:
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles and count to 5
- Release them slowly while counting to 5
- Repeat this 10 times
- Do this three times a day and you will start to see improvements in your symptoms
Once you have the all clear and are free of cancer you can kick start your recovery with a male pelvic floor toner like the Kegel8 V for Men Pelvic Toner.
We hope that this blog has helped you understand more about how your body works and what the prostate cancer risk factors are. As advocates for men’s health, we want to start a conversation about prostate health and prostate cancer. By informing yourself and talking about this sometimes uncomfortable topic with male friends and relatives, you can help fight prostate cancer! This year we are helping to do our bit by supporting Movember, our team members are doing some great stuff which you can read about in our last blog. Any donations that our team receives Kegel8 will match up to £1000. Visit our team page to see how we are doing at http://moteam.co/tashticles.