Prostate cancer is now the mostly commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the UK, new figures have revealed.
A total of 57,192 new prostate cancer cases were diagnosed in 2018 - the most recent available - marking a substantial rise from 48,690 in the previous year.
The news comes as former Liverpool and England goalkeeper Ray Clemence died of the disease on Sunday (15 November) aged 72. Clemence had been living with advanced prostate cancer since 2005.
Most common in the UK
Prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the most common form of the disease, according to data analysed by Prostate Cancer UK.
By comparison, there were 57,152 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the UK, followed by 48,054 cases of lung cancer and 42,879 of bowel cancer.
The new figures suggest that new cases of prostate cancer have more than doubled in the last 20 years, and around 400,000 men in the UK are currently living with the disease, or have survived it.
While most prostate cancers are being caught at stage III, when the disease is more treatable than if it has spread, more men are now being diagnosed earlier at stage I.
During this stage, the cancer may never cause harm during a patient’s lifetime and, as such, close monitoring of the disease is recommended, rather than aggressive treatment.
Angela Culhane, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said, "While it's good news that more men have been having conversations with their GPs and being diagnosed earlier, it only serves to reinforce the need not only for better treatments which can cure the disease, but for better tests that can differentiate between aggressive prostate cancer that needs urgent treatment and those which are unlikely to ever cause any harm.
"We need research now more than ever, which is why it really is devastating that so much of it has been brought to a standstill by the Covid-19 crisis.
"We know that the Covid-19 pandemic will have knock-on effects on diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer for some time to come.
"But as services begin to return to normal, it's important that anyone with concerns about their prostate cancer risk speaks to their GP or contacts our specialist nurses - particularly if they have any symptoms.
“Men who are most at risk are those aged 50 and over, black men and men with a family history of the disease."
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
In the very early stages, prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer increases in size, according to the NHS.
When symptoms do develop, they can include the following:
- Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in starting to urinate
- Straining or taking a long time while urinating
- Weak flow
- Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or blood in semen
These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer and could be being caused by something else, such as prostate enlargement, which is non-cancerous.
Later possible symptoms that indicate the cancer may have spread include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.
What should I do if I have symptoms?
If you experience symptoms of prostate cancer, you should visit your GP so you can be tested.
There is no single, definitive test for the disease, but your doctor will likely ask for a urine sample to check for infection, and take a blood sample to test your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). They will also examine your prostate by conducting a rectal examination.
If your doctor considers you to be at risk of prostate cancer, they should refer you to hospital to discuss the option of taking further tests.
How is it treated?
Treatment for prostate cancer is dependent on the individual, and for many men no treatment will be necessary.
In cases where treatment is necessary, the aim is to cure or control the disease so it affects everyday life as little as possible and does not shorten life expectancy.
If the cancer has already spread, the aim is to not to cure it, but rather to prolong life and delay symptoms.
The stage of the cancer will determine which types of treatments are needed, with early diagnoses generally having a good chance of survival.
‘Watchful waiting’ is often recommended for older patients when it is unlikely the cancer will affect their natural lifespan.
‘Active surveillance’ involves having regular PSA tests, MRI scans and, in some cases, biopsies to help find any signs of progression as early as possible.
In the event symptoms of progressive cancer develop, it may be possible to slow its development, relieve symptoms and prolong life.
Treatment options include radiotherapy, hormone treatment and chemotherapy. In the event the cancer has spread to your bones, medicines called bisphosphonates may be used to help reduce the pain and bone loss.