Prostate cancer is a condition that develops in the male reproductive system and, as such, only affects males. It is a slow-progressing disease and in fact many men die well into their eighties without ever being aware that they had it. However, studies show that almost one half of all men in their 50s show the early signs of developing prostate cancer and, therefore, you may want to ensure you catch the disease in its earliest state, thus maximising chances of a cure.
Prostate cancer pre-screening is a controversial topic, in that, whilst it is universally agreed that catching the cancer in its earliest form is desirable, it is not definite that screening actually helps to increase the rate of detection. The screening itself is not a diagnosis and can only reveal the possibility of cancer prevalent in the body. Further tests will be required to confirm its presence. There are two main types of screening: DRE (digital rectal examination) and PSA (prostate-specific antigen). The former is less preferred, since it is invasive, unreliable, hard to repeat and generally subjective.
The Pros of Prostate Cancer Screening
The PSA test has become more and more popular recently. Here are some reasons why:
– It is reproducible
– It gives quick results
– It is readily available and fairly easy to do
– It is relatively inexpensive
– It is not overly invasive
However, there are also disadvantages to screening.
Over-diagnosis – Prostate cancer, being such a slow-developing disease, can affect a person without them ever knowing they had it. It can often be symptom-less and since it is much more prevalent in older men, finding its existence can lead to treatments that may or may not be necessary in the first place. Furthermore, treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy carry their own risks; and had the patient not been screened, he may have lived his life happily, blissfully ignorant of the dormant cancer in his prostate.
Invasive follow-up tests – Pre-screening is never conclusively diagnostic and so follow-up tests, such as biopsies, will be required in order to confirm the cancer. These can be painful for the patient and could cause fever, blood in the urine or a UTI (urinary tract infection).
False diagnoses – Pre-screening can also be unreliable. Tests can show the PSA levels to be normal, even if the patient does have prostate cancer. This can delay treatment for a patient who needs it. Similarly, the test may reflect abnormal results in a healthy patient, leading to more invasive tests and the related problems they cause.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
– More frequent urination
– Night-time urination
– Difficulty or pain during urination
– Blood in the urine
– Difficulty in maintaining an erection or pain when ejaculating
If any of these symptoms occur, you might want to think about pre-screening. However, bear in mind that there are drawbacks to the screening process and it is not a cure-all solution. Make sure you discuss your thoughts and doubts with your health-care professional before making your decision.
You can call in at the walk-in well man clinic services at Broadgate GP Clinic London Wall, or call us today on 020 7638 4330 – Same day appointments available.