Prostate Cancer: Here’s what you need to know

Musician Jools Holland is sharing his story to help raise awareness of the UK’s most common male cancer.

03 March 2022

More than 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the UK – and Jools Holland has just revealed he is one of them.

The musician and TV star was diagnosed in 2014, telling PA news agency the disease was detected following a routine blood test and he had no symptoms at the time.

Holland, 64, said it’s “really important for men to be aware of the facts of prostate cancer and understand their risk” – and he’s teamed up with Prostate Cancer UK for an event titled Raise the Roof, which will see a host of stars and comedians perform at the Royal Albert Hall on June 22 in a bid to raise awareness.

Armistice Day 2020
(John Rainford/PA)

Thankfully, Holland’s cancer was successfully treated – and the disease is often curable if caught early.

Here’s what you need to know…

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the UK’s most common male cancer. It affects the prostate – a walnut-sized gland that sits beneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra in people born with male sex organs. Its main purpose is to help produce semen (the fluid that carries sperm).

Am I at risk of prostate cancer?

“Prostate cancer is a disease we tend to see in older age groups (over-50s), but there are exceptions, as with any form of cancer,” says Dr Sanjay Mehta, GP at The London General Practice (thelondongeneralpractice.com).

Some people might have a higher risk, points out Emma Craske, senior specialist nurse at Prostate Cancer UK.

“One in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime and that rises to one in four for black men, so black ethnicity is an increased risk factor,” says Craske.

“The risk also increases with age and family history, so particularly for men who’ve got a brother or father who was also diagnosed.”

The charity’s message is don’t wait for symptoms (as often there aren’t any in the early stages), but instead be aware of your own risk factors and have a chat with your doctor if concerned. Their online risk checker can help (prostatecanceruk.org/risk-checker).

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

If you do get symptoms, remember these things are often caused by other far less sinister causes. However, the advice is always to get things checked.

Mehta says it’s often about urinary symptoms and changes to how you urinate. “So frequency, where you need to go more often. Hesitancy, where you’re standing over the toilet bowl and a period of time will pass before you’re able to pass urine, and ‘dribbling’, where you’ve finished but find you’re still passing when you walk away,” he explains.

“These are common in older men anyway. But if it’s new for you, and you find you’re having to go more often at night, and you’re having hesitancy or urgency, see your doctor.”

Other things to get checked include erectile dysfunction, blood in your urine, and any new and unexplained lower back pain. “Then there are general systemic symptoms, like lethargy, lack of appetite,” adds Mehta.

“Again, these things often happen anyway, but if it’s a change for you and it’s been happening for a couple of weeks, see your doctor.”

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

First, your doctor will chat through your symptoms and history with you.

“The next step would involve an examination, including a rectal examination of the prostate,” says Mehta.

“I appreciate this can put some men off seeing their doctor but it is a very helpful way of assessing things, and then there’s a PSA blood test. Then we pull make a clinical decision as to whether you need to be referred.”

Further investigations, including a scan and biopsy, can help determine a diagnosis.

How is prostate cancer treated?

This can depend on the stage of the cancer and what’s suitable for each individual. But Craske says the options are usually “surgery or radiotherapy”, and there are “newer treatments where they treat spots of cancer, rather than the whole prostate”.

Caught early, prostate cancer is generally very treatable. And even with advanced prostate cancer, treatments have come a long way.

“Men are living much longer now with advanced prostate cancer than they were years ago,” Craske notes.

Emotional support

Two male friends talking
Talking about your worries can help (Alamy/PA)

It’s very common to experience anxiety and concerns around a diagnosis and treatment side-effects, so taking care of your psychological wellbeing is part of coping with cancer.

“Naturally people do worry and we hear from a lot of men who are concerned (about side-effects),” says Craske.

“It’s difficult with any treatment, because you can’t predict exactly how it’s going to be for one person, so there can be uncertainty. But that’s something we can talk them through.”

She says it’s helpful to “normalise the feelings people have and to know they’re not alone” – and talking can help.

“It might be talking to family, friends, joining a support group, and talking to your own health team,” says Craske.

Cancer charity helplines and chat services are another option.

For more information, see prostatecanceruk.org

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