Cancer of the prostate is the most common category of cancer seen in men in the UK; around 40,000 new cases are identified each year, mostly in the over-fifties. Luckily nature gives us a sporting chance by positioning the prostate both right next to our piddle-filled bladder and so that it actually surrounds the urethra – the tube that carries that piddle from the bladder down our penis before hopefully into the toilet pan; chances are then that if your prostate does change size or shape as a result of a tumour you are going to notice a corresponding change in your piddling habits … hopefully. Even if your piddling does change then it’s not always cancer that’s the issue but instead some form of prostate enlargement – HAVE IT CHECKED OUT.
The prostate, in case you’re wondering, is a little gland about the size of a satsuma and whose prime function is the production of the thick white fluid that transports your semen created by those testicles we were so concerned about earlier. The reason why prostate cancer develops is unclear but research has identified certain groups within society who are at higher risk of developing the condition …
- It is more commonly seen in those of African-Caribbean and African descent than white Europeans, and less common in Asians than white Europeans.
- Having a close male blood relation who has had the condition under the age of sixty seems to increase your risk, as does having a close female relative who has had breast cancer.
- You are at higher risk if you don’t exercise regularly and / or allow your weight to go beyond sensible limits.
- Taller men have a higher risk of developing the condition (always thought I was lucky being a sensible height …).
- As do men who have had the snip (… damn …).
Prostate cancer tends to grow slowly but when it does shake off its snail-like inertia and colonises other parts of the body – bones are a frequent target – then the outlook is particularly grim with no cure available. As described above, nature will give you an early heads-up that something’s wrong by affecting your piddling habits and the key to early diagnosis is to recognise this as a possible sign of cancer as opposed to concluding that you have the kind of old man’s waterworks that your grandad was always moaning about and put down to something he did during the war. The classic symptoms can be summarised as follows:-
- You frequently feel the need to wee – particularly at night.
- That need to wee comes out of no-where and is all-conquering.
- Ironically, it’s hard then to have a wee.
- You find yourself straining or taking a long time when weeing.
- Your flow of wee is rather weak.
- You have a feeling at the end that not all your wee has made an appearance.
Less common; you notice blood in your wee – and semen actually (that’s blood in your semen, not urine in your semen; hopefully you stopped having difficulties like that before you moved out of your teenage bedroom). And, talking in the ballpark of semen, another symptom but again less common is that you may find difficulty achieving an erection.
Time to go to the surgery. If nothing else you will have the excitement of watching your doctor decide whether or not to conduct a digital rectal examination – i.e. popping their fingers up your bum – to feel whether your prostate is of the correct texture and firmness … all those years of training …. alternatively, they might suggest a PSA blood test to help assess your risk or even a biopsy.
Treatment options depend on how bad your condition seems to be and how soon the risk is of the cancer spreading around the body; some men can live decades without the need for treatment. The option of simply monitoring the cancer through ‘watchful waiting’ may be adopted as opposed to actively treating it; this is because all current treatments have some risk of causing erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence – hardly a surprise now that we know where the prostate is and what it does. Fortunately, some new therapies are being developed without these side effects and hopefully they will come online soon.
The above text comes from the ‘… I Thought I Felt Run Down Because Of The Shifts …’ chapter of our book ‘How To Survive Your Police Career’. For more details please go to the website https://howtosurviveyourpolicecareer.com/