A prostate exam can be life-saving, so don’t put it off (Photo: Getty)

About one in eight men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.

That makes it the most common cancer in men in the UK, but it’s also one of the most treatable, with a 98% 10-year survival rate, according to Cancer.Net.

Research shows that about a third of men postpone prostate cancer screening, partly because of fear of a diagnosis and the side effects of treatments.

But these screenings could potentially save lives, and in early 2022 the NHS and the charity Prostate Cancer UK urged men to get screened in a campaign that has proven successful.

If you’re wondering how to get tested, here’s what you need to know, plus the symptoms to watch out for.

What is the prostate

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in the male pelvis.

man in the doctor's office

The prostate is a small gland in the male pelvis (Picture: Getty)

It is located between the penis and bladder and encloses the urethra.

The main function of the prostate is to produce a thick white fluid that creates semen when mixed with the semen produced by the testicles.

What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?

According to the NHS website, symptoms of prostate cancer can include:

  • Having to urinate more often, often at night
  • Need to rush to the toilet
  • difficulty urinating
  • Overexertion or persistent urination
  • Weak current
  • Feeling that your bladder has not completely emptied
  • Blood in the urine or blood in the semen.

However, symptoms do not appear until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra.

General practitioner talking to a male patient

Prostate cancer has a 98% survival rate (Photo: Getty)

It is therefore advisable to have yourself checked regularly, even if you have no complaints.

Dr. However, Sameer Sanghvi, general practitioner and head of clinical technology at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor reminds us, “Prostate cancer grows slowly, which is why you may not show any symptoms for years.”

“Usually, symptoms only appear when the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the tip of the penis.”

“That’s why it’s so important to get tested if you’re concerned.”

How to book a prostate cancer screening

There is no specific procedure for booking a prostate check. Simply make an appointment with your doctor and indicate on which day you want to be examined.

If you prefer to be examined by a male doctor, please inform reception at the time of booking.

During your appointment, your doctor will gain insight into your risk of developing prostate cancer based on factors such as your age and ethnicity.

You can then take the first exam.

Prostate Cancer UK has also developed a 30 second rapid test to assess your risk at home.

During the test, you will be asked three questions about your age, ethnicity, and family history of the disease, as all of these can play a role in your chances of getting it.

However, it is still recommended to get checked by your doctor even if your risk factor is low.

Regardless of how widespread this cancer is, it’s worth noting that it’s there no NHS routine prostate screening programme.

Dr. Sanghvi said: “For various reasons (e.g. questions about the reliability of the tests) there is currently no prostate screening program in the UK.

“However, men over 50 can have a blood test done after consulting their GP.”

“If you are black or have a family history of prostate cancer, this service may be available to you after age 45.”

What does a prostate exam involve?

Many people feel nervous or embarrassed about having their prostate examined, but it is a painless and fairly quick process.

During the examination, the doctor may examine your prostate.

General practitioner talking to a male patient

You can have your prostate checked by your GP (Picture: Getty)

To do this, your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to check for any abnormal signs, such as a lumpy, hard prostate. This test is called a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Dr. However, Sanghvi reminds us that this is not the only option available.

“Men are often suspicious of prostate testing because they think it’s a digital rectal exam (or in other words, a physical anal exam),” said Dr. Sanghvi.

“But that’s not the case — blood tests and MRIs are some of the less invasive ways to screen for prostate cancer.”

“While I understand why rectal exams can embarrass patients, I want to remind men that they shouldn’t hurt and are over very quickly.”

You may also be asked to provide a urine sample and blood test, while other tests may include an MRI scan or biopsy.

What is the treatment for prostate cancer?

If you test positive for cancer, there are many different treatment options available.

Your GP and assigned cancer support team will discuss the best options for you.

This may include radiation therapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), cryotherapy, hormone treatment, or surgical removal of the prostate.

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However, you may not need any treatment at all.

If the cancer occurs early and is not causing symptoms, your doctor may suggest “watchful waiting” or “active monitoring.”

This depends on many factors, including your age and overall health.

Can women get prostate cancer?

Women do not have a prostate and therefore cannot get prostate cancer.

However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be aware of similar cancers that can affect them.

Dr. Sanghvi says, “It may seem obvious that women can’t get prostate cancer because they don’t have a prostate.”

“While very rare, there is a cancer that affects Skene’s glands that women can suffer from.”

“Skene’s glands are a group of glands and ducts in the front of the vagina that are similar in structure to the prostate.”