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Prostate Cancer

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancers start in the tissue of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Prostate cancer is usually a slow growing disease. According to Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011External link, prostate cancer remains the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Canada, with 25,500 cases expected in 2011. This accounts for over a quarter (27%) of new cancer cases in men.

How do I know if I have prostate cancer?

All men over the age of 50 years should talk to their doctors about being tested for prostate cancer. Men who are at higher risk because of family history or men of African ancestry should discuss the need for testing at an earlier age.

There are two tests for prostate cancer:

  • the doctor feels the prostate gland by inserting a finger in your rectum (this test is called a Digital Rectal Examination test or a DRE)
  • a blood test called the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.

If your tests suggest abnormalities in your prostate, your doctor may suggest more tests to rule out or confirm a diagnosis of cancer.

Men often do not experience any signs or symptoms of prostate cancer in its early stages. As the cancer develops, you may experience:

  • a frequent and urgent need to urinate
  • difficulty in starting or stopping the urine flow or being unable to urinate
  • a feeling that you are not able to completely empty your bladder
  • a burning feeling or pain when you urinate
  • finding blood in your urine or semen
  • pain when you have sex (during climax).

Many symptoms can be explained for reasons other than having cancer. You should see your doctor if any of these symptoms are prevalent and do not go away.

What is my risk of getting it?

There is no single cause of prostate cancer, but some factors increase the risk of developing it:

  • age - if you are over 60 (when over 80% of cases of prostate cancer occur). Prostate cancer is uncommon under 50
  • family history - if members of your family have had prostate cancer
  • being of African descent

Other possible risk factors (that scientists are now researching) include:

  • obesity
  • a diet high in fat
  • physical inactivity
  • working with cadmium, a bluish white metal produced when zinc, and to a lesser degree lead and copper, which are used in manufacturing.

For more information on other types of cancers