Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among New Zealand men. Around 1 in 10 New Zealand men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. It rarely occurs in men under the age of 55, with most men who develop prostate cancer over the age of 65.
Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, and so does not always cause symptoms until the condition is quite advanced. Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Poor urinary stream
- Pain or difficulty when passing urine
- Dribbling of urine after you finish at the toilet
- Passing urine more frequently (especially at night)
- Blood in the urine
- Inability to pass urine
These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. It is recommended to see your GP if you experience any of these symptoms for further assessment and investigation.
How is it diagnosed?
A doctor will examine the prostate gland by doing a digital rectal examination. This involves placing a gloved finger into the rectum to examine the size and texture of the prostate.
A doctor will also request a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a chemical which is produced by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. PSA levels rise with age and when the prostate is enlarged. A significantly increased PSA can suggest prostate cancer.
An elevated PSA does not confirm a diagnosis of prostate cancer as there are other causes of an elevated PSA, but it will require further assessment and investigation. Other causes of an elevated PSA include a UTI, prostatitis or benign prostatic hypertrophy. Transient minor elevations of PSA may occur after a prostate biopsy, cystoscopy, ejaculation, or long distance bike riding.