Men's Health Week: Prostate Cancer

Monday 15 June 2020

Men's Health Week 2020: Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

With prostate cancer being one of the biggest killers of Australian men, it's vitally important for men to know the signs of prostate cancer as they age, especially if there is a family history of the disease.

Prostate cancer clinical nursing consultant, Ken Burston, who has decades of experience with the disease and in the field of urology, stressed starting the process of getting checked out for prostate cancer is easy and largely pain-free.

"You can relate it to your car, we get our cars regularly checked and serviced so we should be doing that with our bodies," he said.

"Men hitting 50 we would encourage them to get a baseline PSA (prosthetic specific antigen) through a simple blood test, you don't have to get it every year, but we encourage them to get one just to see where they're at.

"Also if you have a family history, and when we talk family history, we're talking a father, grandfather, close male relatives like that, where there's a history of prostate cancer, you would be looking at an earlier age to get a baseline at around 40.

"Then every two years after that for monitoring so we can see what the PSA is doing."
Ken Burston, prostate cancer clinical nursing consultant.

Ken Burston

Though there are several signs and symptoms to be aware of that may point to an issue with your prostate, Ken was quick to point out that these same signs such as urination frequency, urgency, slowing down of stream could be indicative of other issues such as benign prosthetic hyperplasia (BPH) and may not mean a cancer diagnosis.

"If your PSA is elevated it doesn't mean we look at you and say you have got cancer, it means we have to investigate more to find out what it is because there are other things that will put the PSA up. For example, if you have a big prostate with benign tissue.

"As men, we've all heard people say "oh when I was 18-20, I could pee out the toilet window and now it just dribbles out", when we are looking at those types of things it just means we need to be looking to see what's happening.

"Once you bring in age-related factors into it, how old is the person, do we then suspect something then it's just a simple blood test to get the PSA. Also, if you have got bleeding or any blood in the urine, it just means investigating the whole urinary system.

"Ken urged men to be pragmatic and open with their GP about any issues they believe may be happening with their prostate as the earlier the detection of any urinary issues the better and also added that a physical prostate exam is only part of a potential diagnosis of prostate cancer and not standard testing for prostate cancer as it once was.

Key for men of any age are the concepts of monitoring and awareness as they can help alert you to potential issues that your GP can help you with, whether they are prostate cancer related or not.

"Whilst it may have nothing to do with prostate cancer you may find that those symptoms can be relieved by certain treatments, it could be BPH and they give you medication for it or they do a procedure where they open up the urethra so you can void and fix the issue," Ken said.

"If going forward and aiding part of diagnosis and there is suspicion of potential prostate cancer then yes a urologist will check your prostate but that is not a standard test like people see in the movies, we are trying to get away from that, it really is as simple as just get the blood test and go from there.

"When we look at the generation older than us, they probably didn't know what was wrong with their relatives, they just knew their relative had passed away,

"Now we can be more aware of our family history so we can relate it and see if it is applicable."

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