Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs you have it for many years.

Symptoms often only become apparent when your prostate is large enough to affect the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis).

When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling your bladder has not fully emptied.

However, these signs do not mean you have prostate cancer. It is more likely they are caused by something else, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (also known as BPH or prostate enlargement).

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men. About the size of a Satsuma, it is located between the penis and the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.

The main function of the prostate is to help in the production of semen. It produces a thick white fluid that is mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles, to create semen.

Tests your GP might do

Your doctor might do some general tests. They may check your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature.

Depending on your symptoms, they may also ask you to have a blood test and examine your prostate gland.

PSA blood test

PSA is a protein made by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. It’s normal for all men to have some PSA in their blood. A high level of PSA can be a sign of cancer. But a high PSA can also be because of other conditions that aren’t cancer, such as infection.

A PSA test on its own doesn’t normally diagnose prostate cancer. Your GP will discuss the possible benefits and risks of having a PSA test with you.

Men over 50 can usually ask their doctor for a free PSA blood test. Read more about the PSA test

Examination of your prostate gland

When your doctor examines you, it might include feeling your prostate gland. To do this your doctor puts a gloved finger into your back passage (rectum) to check for abnormal signs. They feel for any lumps or your prostate feeling larger than it should for your age. Doctors call this a digital rectal examination (DRE).

It’s normal to feel anxious about this test and it might be uncomfortable. But it usually only lasts a few minutes. Find out more about a digital rectal examination