Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland – a small walnut-shaped gland in men – divide and multiply uncontrollably. It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years. Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra), explains the NHS.
When this happens, you may notice things like:
An increased need to peeStraining while you peeA feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.
Prostate cancer may spread to bones such as the spine, pelvis, thigh bone (femur) or ribs. It may affect different areas of the bones rather than only one area.
When a cancer starts in one place in the body and spreads elsewhere, this is called a secondary cancer or a ‘metastasis’.
According to Macmillan, the first sign of a secondary cancer in the bones is usually an ache in the bone.
This pain, which is often in the hips or in the back, gradually gets worse over a few weeks, says the charity.
The pain can persist throughout the day and into the night, impeding your ability to sleep, says the health body.
“Other types of pain not caused by cancer may feel different. For example, pain from arthritis is often worse early in the morning and is not there all the time,” it adds.
How to respond
“If you have symptoms that could be caused by prostate cancer, you should visit a GP,” advises the NHS.
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According to the health body, there’s no single, definitive test for prostate cancer. The GP will discuss the pros and cons of the various tests with you to try to avoid unnecessary anxiety.
Treatment for prostate cancer will depend on your individual circumstances, says the NHS.
“Sometimes, if the cancer has already spread, the aim is not to cure it but to prolong life and delay symptoms,” it adds.
Am I at risk?
It’s not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, although a number of things can increase your risk of developing the condition.
Your risk of developing it depends on many factors, including your age, ethnicity and lifestyle.
According to Cancer Research UK, prostate cancer is most common in men aged 75 to 79 years.
The cancer is more common in black-African men than white men, and least common in Asian men, says the charity.
There is some evidence that obesity can influence the aggressiveness of the cancer too.
Researchers have found a link between being obese or overweight and cancers being higher grade (faster growing).
According to UK health guidelines, obese means being very overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. And being overweight means having a BMI of between 25 and 30.
Underscoring the point, there is some evidence that being active might help to lower your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Try to keep a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.