By Sara Millbank

The most common form of cancer among men is prostate cancer and in America alone, in 2008, over 232,000 men were diagnosed with this disease.

In the UK, 1 in 4 of new ‘male cancer’ diagnosed is prostate cancer. It over-took lung cancer 10 years ago as the cause of cancer-related deaths, with 10,000 men a year dying. However, the good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable if found early enough. The trouble is, catching it in the earlier stages, as very often most men will not have experienced any symptoms at all.

Although the prostate gland is a small gland with no vital function, it has the potential to cause men a great deal of trouble. 60% of men over the age of 65 years old have urinary symptoms which make it sometimes difficult to detect. However, around half of these are prostate cancer, with 10% high risk and only 3% actually dying. Research has shown that there is an inherent gene that could pass it on, but this does not mean that it will be. Exposure to environmental issues has been considered, but unproven. The main cause studies suggest that the only one we can influence is our Western diet.

Men aged between 50 and 60 should have a prostate check every two years and this is increased to every year for those over 60. A simple blood test called the P.S.A. is unique in its evidence. A reading below 4, means that you do not currently have cancer in the prostate gland. A higher reading does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer, but means that you need to be monitored more closely for other symptoms. Left on its own, a higher reading than 4, means there may be trouble of some sort, but not necessarily cancer.

So what are the symptoms? As you might expect, most of the symptoms are around a certain area. A need to urinate frequently, especially at night is the most common symptom, or difficulty starting and holding back urine. A painfully or burning sensation, along with blood in the urine, is another sign. Also difficulty having an erection or painful ejaculation can be another symptom and also frequent pain in the lower back or upper thigh.

As you can see, some symptoms can point to other diseases and can mislead men to ignore the signs of prostate cancer. It can be mistaken for diabetes, stress or back trouble, but a visit to the Doctor is a must if you are in any doubt. He or she will consider the symptoms and may advise a biopsy to make sure. A small needle is inserted into the prostate to take a small sample of tissue. This procedure is very short and does not need an overnight stay in hospital. The tissue sample will be sent to the laboratory for testing and if determined that prostrate cancer is present, then further test will be carried out to see how far the disease has progressed. CT or MRI scans would be carried out and these specialised imaging tests would determined if the cancer had spread to anywhere else in the body.

If diagnosed, the treatment varies in each case and treatment will be different and depend on the level of the cancer. If the prostate cancer has not spread outside the prostate gland, then the decision to remove it is usually a simple one. Men who have had their prostate gland removed often live for many years cancer-free.

New research is taking place all the time and recently a survey reported that 81% of prostate cancer sufferers remain cancer-free after 13 years, without needing chemotherapy. These men all had detected the cancer early and had their prostates removed. Professionals and patients alike have written many books about this disease, all with varying opinions.

The effects of lifestyle and dietary changes have been developed and discussed by all the leading researchers in this field. Certain foods have been found to benefit some patients and not others, but a healthier living has helped everyone in fighting this disease. Vitamin A, D and E, along with selenium (found in Brazil nuts) have all been found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Also phytoestrogens, found in soy products, caroteniods found in cooked tomatoes and Chinese green tea, have all helped reduce the risk, whilst diets heavy in animal fats (particularly red meat and diary products) increase the risk of prostate cancer. Obesity, like most things was highlighted as a real reason for the increased rick of prostate cancer.

If you have any doubts or concerns then you should go to see you doctor immediately. Remember early detection is very important in the fight against prostate cancer.