GET A BLUE DO and help give prostate cancer the finger
More than 600 Kiwi men will die this year – mates, fathers, brothers, grandfathers. If you haven’t been directly affected by prostate cancer, you’re bound to know someone who has. Every little bit helps to provide support, campaign for greater awareness, and advocate for better diagnosis and treatment outcomes.
Many men begin to have problems with their prostate as they get older. Most problems are caused by simple enlargement of the prostate, but a few are caused by cancer.
Usually the first sign of trouble is with passing urine. A man may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
■ trouble getting started, especially if in a hurry;
■ trouble stopping (“dribbling”);
■ the stream of urine is weak, or it stops and starts;
■ needing urgently to pass urine at any time;
■ feeling a need to pass urine more often, even though not much comes out;
■ getting up at night to pass urine more than once;
■ feeling a need to pass more urine, even though none comes out;
■ pain and/or burning when passing urine; this may indicate infection.
Not always cancer
In men with prostate problems, nine out of 10 will have a prostate which has grown too big. this puts pressure on the urethra and may squeeze it enough to block outflow of urine.
This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH.
Benign means it is not cancer, and hyperplasia means “too much tissue”. BPH occurs with ageing. It affects more than half of all men older than 50. Medicines or surgery are used to treat it but only when symptoms become troublesome. Remember, BPH is not prostate cancer even though most of the symptoms are the same when passing urine. Infection of the prostate is called prostatitis. It is usually treated with antibiotics.
The doctor will need to determine whether the patient’s problems are due to BPH, prostatitis, prostate cancer or some other cause. The doctor may do the following tests:
■ Digital rectal examination.
The doctor wears a rubber glove and inserts a finger into the anus to feel the prostate through the wall of the rectum. The doctor checks the size, shape and texture of the prostate.
■ Prostate specific antigen test.
PSA is a small protein released into the blood by the prostate. The PSA test does not diagnose prostate cancer, it is an indicator that there may be abnormalities in the prostate gland. Results from a PSA test alone cannot confirm whether prostate cancer is present. Other tests need to be done.
A biopsy is the removal of very small pieces of prostate tissue using a fine needle. A local anaesthetic will be given first. Men say the discomfort is mild. A biopsy is the only way to show for certain whether or not the man has prostate cancer. Doctors use an ultrasound probe, and in some cases MRI scans, to guide the biopsy.
A battle with non-hodgkins lymphona is the impetus behind former All Black Buck Shelford’s support of cancer awareness and campaigns like Blue September.