Prostate cancer: the facts

Along with heart disease and diabetes, prostate cancer could become one of the most important health issues for men within the next 20 years so it’s important that all men are aware of the risk factors and possible symptoms which they should always discuss with their GP.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK – it kills one man every hour and currently there are over a quarter of a million men living with the disease. If diagnosed early enough, prostate cancer can often be successfully treated. But in many cases men don’t experience any symptoms, which coupled with a distinct lack of awareness surrounding the disease, has made detecting the disease at an early stage incredibly difficult.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?


The most important risk factors for prostate cancer are age, Black ethnicity and family history of prostate cancer.

It’s a cancer that mainly affects men over the age of 50 (the average age for men to be diagnosed is between 70 and 74) although some men can be diagnosed under 50, but this is rare. In the UK, 1 in 4 Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime – that’s double the overall 1 in 8 risk faced by all men. The reasons for this are not fully understood but it might be due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.

It is advised that men take the time to find out, where possible, if their father or a brother has had prostate cancer as this will increase their own risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Most early prostate cancers don’t have any symptoms and, for some men, the first noticeable symptoms are from prostate cancer which has spread to their bones. If a man does have earlier symptoms, these are not usually specific symptoms to prostate cancer but men often find out about it because they notice a difference in their normal bladder habits which prompts them to visit the doctor. For example some men or their partners may notice that he is getting up several times during the night to empty his bladder, or that he is going more often during the day, that it’s taking longer to start or that the flow may be less than it was. These symptoms do not always mean prostate cancer – they can happen for a short period when you have a urine infection or for a longer time if you have an enlarged prostate which is not cancerous.

It is always best to speak to the GP who can work out if it’s likely to be one of these common non-cancerous changes or whether you need to undergo further tests.

Less common changes that should not be ignored are when the man notices blood in the urine or semen. On very rare occasions a man may develop lower back pain which doesn’t go away. This can be due to a muscle sprain or arthritis but can also be due to prostate cancer which has moved to the bone.

What to bear in mind?

Although prostate cancer is a big issue for men, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s a cancer that can be effectively treated and cured if caught early enough so men should be aware of risk factors and not ignore any symptoms.

Men shouldn’t be embarrassed about visiting their doctor to discuss any concerns. All men over 50 years are entitled to a PSA blood test if they have had a conversation with a health professional about the pros and cons. The test can often be the first step to diagnosis as it can help detect problems with the prostate including cancer.

Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer may contact Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurses in confidence on 0800 074 8383 or online via the Live Chat instant messaging service: The Specialist Nurse phone service is free to landlines and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.

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Read Wayne Sleep’s story about his battle with prostate cancer here 

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