For this month’s Health and Wellbeing section, we delve deep into one of the most common illnesses amongst men within the business demographic – Prostate Cancer

It’s important for people to understand the signs and symptoms of any illness so that it can be caught early, preventing more extreme harm further down the line. Prostate Cancer is something that affects a huge amount of men in the UK and particularly, the business community, and while many people shy away from the C-word, it’s crucial for men to understand what to look out for and know how to discover any of these signs.

Of course, it’s a known fact that only men have a prostate gland, and Cancer of this kind is among the most frequent illnesses for men in the UK to develop. For those who aren’t so clear – which probably includes a shocking amount of our readers – the prostate is usually the shape and size of a walnut, growing larger the older you get. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. Prostate Cancer, however, can develop when cells in this area of the body start to grow at a fast and uncontrollable pace. It often starts slowly, making some of the initial symptoms hard to distinguish, but of course as with any illness, people’s bodies react in different ways.

Symptoms often only become apparent when the Prostate is large enough to affect the urethra. When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied. While these symptoms should never be ignored, it’s more likely to be caused by something else, although ignoring the signs is never worth the risk.

The causes of prostate cancer are – like many illnesses – still unknown. The chance of developing Prostate Cancer increases as you get older and the majority of cases develop in men aged 50 or older. For reasons not yet understood, statistics show that Prostate Cancer is more common in men of African-Caribbean or African descent, and less common in men of Asian descent. Men who have close male relatives whom have suffered with this kind of Cancer are also at slightly increased risk.

As mentioned before, Prostate Cancer is the most common Cancer in men in the UK, with over 46,000 new cases being diagnosed every year – 128 men every day. Every hour, one man dies from Prostate Cancer, which equates to more than 11,000 men every year. You might be curious as to why this is relevant to business in particular, but this kind of Cancer can become more frequent in men that spend their days sitting on a chair behind a desk; businessmen.

Symptoms often only become apparent when the Prostate is large enough to affect the urethra. When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied. While these symptoms should never be ignored, it’s more likely to be caused by something else, although ignoring the signs is never worth the risk. Many men’s Prostates get larger as they get older due to a non-cancerous condition known as Prostate Enlargement, but symptoms that a Cancer of this kind may have spread include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.

Sussex Business Times caught up with Mr Ammar Alanbuki, Consultant Urological Surgeon who recently joined the Urology team at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove. Here, he offers his expertise…

Ammar Alanbuki

What does the process of checking for prostate cancer involve? Is it possible to carry out self-checks or always best to visit a doctor first?

If you have concerns about any changes in your normal urinary function, or pain or have a family history of prostate cancer, make an appointment with your GP.  Prostate cancer is not something you can check for yourself. Going to the toilet more frequently is often the trigger for men to visit their GP.  As well as a rectal examination to see if the prostate gland is enlarged, a blood sample will be taken to test for prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Don’t panic if your first PSA test is raised, it doesn’t necessarily mean cancer. Of those with a raised PSA level, only 30% are likely to have prostate cancer.

What are the treatments for Prostate Cancer?

A diagnosis of prostate cancer doesn’t immediately need treatment or an operation. In recent years, urologists have adopted a `watch and wait’ approach to men who have a localised, non-aggressive prostate cancer – that is, cancer within the prostate gland itself. This means active monitoring to check the cancer doesn’t grow and therefore avoid invasive treatments, which can damage sex life and cause incontinence.

Men on an `active surveillance’ programme are monitored closely with blood tests, repeat scans and sometimes repeat biopsies to ensure it is safe to continue this approach. If the initial diagnosis shows the cancer to be localised but aggressive, or if the cancer has grown during `active surveillance’, you will be offered treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy.

For cancer that has gone beyond the prostate gland, there is a range of treatments from hormone therapy to painkillers to enable the patient to continue to lead a normal life.

With the exclusion of Prostate Cancer, what other common prostate problems are there?

Increased visits to the toilet, struggling to start and/or finish doing a wee or are getting up in the night several times? Then you might have a problem with your prostate. While men will go to their GP with the fear this could be cancer, it is more likely to be a benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate which affects one in three men in their 50s. The enlarged prostate presses on and blocks the urethra, causing bothersome urinary symptoms.

Lifestyle changes such as reducing the amount of liquid consumed before bedtime and avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks can help. If symptoms continue, medication will be prescribed for up to a year, but after that, surgery may be necessary. This could involve removal of part of the prostate, or using a new technique called Urolift which lifts or holds the enlarged prostate tissue out of the way so it no longer blocks the urethra.

Another prostate problem, more common in men aged 30-50, is prostatitis, which causes pain within the pelvic and genital area, and sometimes while urinating. If it comes on suddenly, it is likely to be an infection, which can be treated by your GP with antibiotics.  Chronic prostatitis (symptoms come and go) can be treated with painkillers and you may be referred to a urologist.

Mr Alanbuki holds clinics on Tuesday afternoons and during August and September will be holding free advice clinics on that day. Phone 01273 828 148 for more details.www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk

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