Symptoms of prostate cancer: warning signs and how to get a test as 14,000 men don’t know they have disease

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Prostate Cancer UK has thousands could be ‘missing out on lifesaving treatment’ after men said they felt reluctant to ‘bother’ their GP during the Covid pandemic

Around 14,000 men in England could have undiagnosed prostate cancer and may be in need of urgent lifesaving treatment, a charity has warned.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 58,000 men have begun treatment for the disease in England.

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However, this is 14,000 fewer than would have been expected in pre-pandemic numbers, according to Prostate Cancer UK, sparking concerns that the number of ‘missing’ patients will continue to grow.

Around 14,000 men in England could have undiagnosed prostate cancer (Photo: Adobe)Around 14,000 men in England could have undiagnosed prostate cancer (Photo: Adobe)
Around 14,000 men in England could have undiagnosed prostate cancer (Photo: Adobe) | RFBSIP -

For many men, symptoms do not appear until the disease has already spread, but it is treatable if it is caught early

The charity is now urging people to use its risk assessment tool to help identify the ‘missing’ patients, with those at higher risk urged to contact their GP.

Actor Stephen Fry, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 after a routine health check, and presenter Bill Turnbull have backed the campaign.

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Fry said: “As you can imagine, I was pretty knocked back when I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer, particularly as I had no symptoms to indicate anything was wrong – something I later learned is very common. Thankfully it was caught early, making it more treatable.

“That’s why I’d urge you to check your risk and speak to your GP if you have any concerns – even if you feel completely well, as I did.

“Prostate Cancer UK’s risk checker can help you understand your risk and the next steps to take.”

Turnbull added: “Prostate cancer is so much more treatable when it’s caught early, unfortunately mine wasn’t.

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“So if you’re a man who’s at risk of the disease or worried about prostate cancer, don’t put off going to the doctor to talk about it.

“It’s understandable that people haven’t wanted to go to their GP during a pandemic, but the message is that the NHS is open and they want to see you.”

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra).

Commons symptoms to look for include:

  • needing to pee more frequently, often during the night
  • needing to rush to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to pee
  • straining or taking a long time while peeing
  • weak flow
  • feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
  • blood in urine or blood in semen

Signs that the cancer may have spread include bone and back pain, loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unintentional weight loss.

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What are the tests for prostate cancer?

Men who have symptoms that could be caused by prostate cancer are advised to visit a GP.

Doctors will ask for a urine sample to check for infection, and a blood sample to test the level of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) - this is known as PSA testing.

They may also carry out a digital rectal examination.

A GP will consider your risk of having prostate cancer based on a number of factors, including the test results, your age, family history and ethnic group.

Those who have a raised PSA level may be referred to hospital for an MRI scan of their prostate. If this shows a problem, patients will then be offered a biopsy to confirm the result.

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How do I check my risk?

Men can check their risk of developing the disease by using Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker tool.

The tool requires men to answer three quick questions and will assess your risk within as little as 30 seconds.

Professor Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer for NHS England, said: “I urge you to use the Prostate Cancer UK risk checker today – it is a quick and easy way to understand your risk of prostate cancer and how you can take further action if you are at risk.

“The prognosis for the people we’re yet to see will be much better the earlier we see them but we do need to see them as soon as possible.

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“It’s important men understand prostate cancer often doesn’t show any symptoms at an early stage, so don’t delay – check your risk now. The simple check could be lifesaving.”

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