Prostate cancer is one of the most common, yet least talked about, forms of cancer amongst men. But having an awareness of prostate cancer and its potential symptoms and effects is essential to ensure an early diagnosis should the disease strike, which means that better, less invasive treatments will be available. Knowing the facts will dispel the many confusing myths surrounding prostate cancer.
Of course, some simple precautions are really important to overall wellbeing. Things like taking some daily exercise as it does decrease the risk of developing prostate cancer (and other cancers too!). It’s also important to eat well as this can make a real difference to your overall health.
However, we do stress that if you do show symptoms that might be indicative of prostate cancer, you should book an appointment with your GP as soon as you possibly can. We completely understand that this can be worrying, but delaying it isn’t going to help. Prostate cancer is far more treatable in the early stages, so an early diagnosis means you can get the right treatment at the right time!
With the above in mind, this weeks’ blog is all about the myths that circulate about prostate cancer. We do agree that some of them are for good reason as they are often based on real concerns that men have. But many others are just that, myths. If after reading this blog you are still concerned, again, it’s important to visit your GP. Alternatively, you can contact the team here at Prost8 UK for some friendly advice.
Myth: If There Are No Symptoms, There is No Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is one of the most asymptomatic cancers. This means that not all men experience symptoms at all, and in many cases, symptoms can be mistaken for something else. Quite often with prostate cancer when the symptoms are noticeable the cancer can be quite advanced, so it is not unusual that the first signs of prostate cancer are identified by a doctor during a routine check-up.
Common symptoms can include pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or thighs, blood in the urine or semen, difficulty gaining an erection, pain when ejaculating, and difficulty starting or stopping urination. However, these symptoms don’t necessarily indicate prostate cancer, but it is always best to eliminate that possibility.
Myth: Prostate Cancer Needs Treating Immediately
This is something that men and their families worry about and, of course, for good reason too. But, in some instances, prostate cancer doesn’t need treating immediately, for example, if it’s in the early stages or if specific treatments are going to cause further health implications.
With these cases, active surveillance may be recommended, which involves regular screening to monitor the cancer’s spread and decide on the course of treatment based on the behaviour of the disease over a period of time.
Myth: Only Older Men Can Get Prostate Cancer
When it comes to prostate cancer, there are many risk factors that need to be considered. Physical health, lifestyle, your ethnicity and family history can all be risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing the disease. But, it is true, the older you are, the more likely you are to develop prostate cancer. Each year 48,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer with the greater majority of these being over 50 years old.
Myth: A Raised PSA Level Means You Have Prostate Cancer
PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is a protein that’s produced by the cells within the prostate gland. A PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. PSA level is often higher in men with prostate cancer, but other conditions such as non-cancerous prostate enlargement can cause an elevated level. So, an MRI scan or biopsy is often the only way to know whether a man has prostate cancer or not.
Myth: A PSA Test Is Bad For Your Health
Some prostate cancer experts don’t actually recommend regular PSA testing. But not necessarily because of the simple blood test itself. Indeed, PSA screening isn’t a 100% accurate indicator, but it certainly doesn’t pose a danger to health. Instead, the main problem is how PSA results are interpreted, which can lead to unnecessary biopsies which can cause issues and anxiety.
Myth: Having a Vasectomy Can Cause Prostate Cancer
During the 1990’s Harvard University published a study that suggested that men who underwent vasectomies were of higher risk of developing prostate cancer following the procedure. Although this study was well participated no other studies have come to the same conclusion since. Regardless of whether or not an increase in risk is associated with having a vasectomy, the procedure does not cause prostate cancer.
Myth: Prostate Cancer Can Be Caused By Having Too Much Sex
Very similar to the vasectomy myth, prostate cancer is not ‘caused’ by having too much sex or too little sex for that matter. The causes of prostate cancer are on a microscopic level within body cells, and evidence of sex being a risk factor is far from definitive.
Some experts believe that having lots of sex can lead to inflammation of the prostate affecting the cells whilst others believe that having sex and ejaculating regularly is beneficial to the male reproductive system. Despite these counter indicative beliefs there is no scientific evidence that having sex can cause the development of prostate cancer.
Myth: My Dad Had Prostate Cancer, I Will Too
If a man has a family history of prostate cancer, the chance of a diagnosis is greater compared to someone who doesn’t have a relevant history. However, not all men who have a family history of prostate cancer will get the disease. If prostate cancer does run in your family though and you’re worried about it, book an appointment with your doctor and ask them for a PSA test.
Myth: Radical Surgery Is The Best Treatment Option
Radical surgery is far from the only treatment option for men with prostate cancer. Whilst it’s true that radical prostatectomy is necessary for men with advanced cancers, many other treatments exist, depending on the stage of the disease. These include androgen deprivation therapy (also known as hormone therapy), brachytherapy, cryotherapy, and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). More can be found about these options on the charity’s website at www.prost8.org.uk. You and your medical team will work together to determine which treatment is most suitable for your specific situation, but it always pays to know all your options.
Myth: If Prostate Cancer Comes Back, It Can’t Be Treated Again
Finding out that prostate cancer has come back can be devastating for men, and their families. But just because prostate cancer has returned, it doesn’t mean it can’t be successfully treated again. What it does mean though is that men might be offered a different type of treatment. However, it’s important to remember that if you’ve received the news that your prostate cancer has come back, it’s ultimately your decision when it comes to your treatment plan.
Myth: All Prostate Cancer Treatment Will Ruin My Sex Life
Some prostate cancer treatments can cause adverse sexual side effects. Androgen deprivation therapy (hormone therapy), for example, can lower your sex drive, whilst some surgical procedures have the potential to impact your sensory nerves. However, other treatments like cryotherapy and HIFU can have a far lesser impact on your sex life by preserving the prostate tissue, nerves and seminal vesicles. Making these minimally invasive focal treatments more widely available to men across the UK is the main driving force of Prost8 as a charity.
Myth: Changing My Diet Will Cure Prostate Cancer
Eating a well-balanced diet is very important overall for keeping your body healthy and in the best shape to fight off any infections that might come your way. For a long time, it’s been widely thought that having a diet full of vitamins can lower your risk of developing a wide range of cancers, but unfortunately, there is no research that shows that changing your diet will ‘cure’ prostate cancer. However, eating healthily whilst going through prostate cancer treatment can help your body fight against the disease.
Myth: HIFU Doesn’t Treat Early-Stage Prostate Cancer
A recent major study by Imperial College London, led by professor Hashim Ahmed and Mr Matt Winkler, has proven that men with low to medium-risk prostate cancer that’s not spread to other areas of the body can clearly benefit from HIFU.
HIFU targets just the areas inside the prostate affected by cancerous cells rather than removing or irradiating the entire prostate. This is carried out by focusing ultrasound beams to heat and ablate just the cancerous cells. The treatment also provides optimal Covid-19 control measures as it is generally provided within a self-contained treatment unit minimising interaction with the rest of the hospital, and being a “day stay” procedure, the majority of men can usually go home to recover in the safety of their own homes.
This gives new hope of faster treatment and a better lifestyle outcome for up to 12,000 men every year in the UK with an early diagnosis, and as many as 10,000 more as a salvage treatment for men whose cancer has returned after radiotherapy, all without detriment to long term effectiveness.
What isn’t a myth is the work that Prost8 UK are doing to increase awareness and accelerate access to better, minimally invasive treatments for prostate cancer.
Support Prost8 UK’s Campaign Initiative
Prost8 UK was created to raise funding to deploy an initial six focal therapy suites into strategically placed NHS hospitals across the UK. The cost is up to £500,000 each, but this is much lower than the millions that are required for surgical and radiotherapy equipment plus it provides faster recovery times and dramatically lower ongoing care costs for the NHS.
This will provide accelerated access to these preferred treatment pathways for 1000’s more men and better lifestyle outcomes for men who are diagnosed with early to medium-stage prostate cancer. As it stands right now, these men are routinely offered the same invasive treatments that are given to those with advanced cancers, and we as a charity believe this is unacceptable.
If you would like to support our very important cause and help us to help many more men in the UK, then please visit our donation page today. Remember, 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, it could be you or a loved one next!