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How can you tell if you have prostate cancer rather than an enlarged prostate

01:00 Mon 11th Mar 2002 |

asks tonyb:
Prostate cancer is the commonest male cancer in the UK. About one man in 20 will develop prostate cancer - usually when they're over 65.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement of the prostate) is something that happens with age. Although it's not dangerous, it can cause problems with urinating. Up to 30% of men in their 70s have this condition.

Prostatitis is caused by a bacterial infection, usually from the bladder.

All have similar symptoms.

Q. What sort of symptoms should I look out for
The prostate is a small gland just below the bladder and any growth in the prostate causes difficulty is passing urine.

Look out for:

  • a need to pee frequently
  • getting up through the night to pee
  • rushing to get to the loo in time
  • a delay before urine starts to flow
  • pain in the back, pelvis or hips
  • blood in the urine
  • impotency.

Q. How can I tell if I have prostate cancer rather then one of the other problems
You can't. Any growth in the prostate will cause the same symptoms. Because there's no way you can tell exactly what's wrong, you should see your GP as soon as you notice any problem.

Q. How is prostate cancer diagnosed
Prostate cancer is detectable with a digital rectal examination (DRE), where a doctor places a finger inside your back passage to check the size and shape of the prostate. This should be painless, if a little uncomfortable.

The other test used is a blood test to measure the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. This is a protein produced by the prostate gland and high levels indicate a problem.

Q. What causes prostate cancer
There's no clear-cut cause, but the risks are increased if:

  • your diet is high in animal fat and low in vitamin A
  • you had a sexually acquired infection at a young age
  • it runs in the family
  • you have Afro-Caribbean ancestors.

Q. Is there any way to prevent it
Studies show that eating foods which are high in lycopene (especially tomatoes and tomato sauces) can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and a Swedish study found that men who eat oily fish twice a week halved their chances of getting prostate cancer.

Regular sex can help prevent it, but don't be promiscuous - a new study shows that men who have unprotected sex with lots of partners have a greater risk.

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