Happy Monday one and all. I hope you are all well.
June is Everyman Male Cancer Month and I wanted to do a post to reiterate the information I have previously posted regarding male cancers.
If you have Twitter then I would recommend checking out @one4theboys as they encourage men to be more aware of their health. Samuel L Jackson is one of their advocates and you can read his views here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/23013161
This post is dedicated to my wonderful friend Stuart Pilcher, a survivor after fighting testicular cancer as a teenager. Stuart is one of the most amazing people I have ever met and my friend of almost eight years! You can read about Stuart here: http://pennysophia.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/stuart-pilcher-survivor-story.html
The post is also dedicated to the wonderful Nigel Lewis-Baker. Nigel is one of my fellow cancer campaigns ambassadors and he suffers from prostate cancer. However, his diagnosis has not prevented him from getting involved and becoming a powerful advocate for several cancer charities including Prostate Cancer UK, Macmillan and of course, Cancer Research UK.
The prostate is a gland found only in males. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis. It also carries semen. The prostate is responsible for creating the fluid part of semen. The prostate needs testosterone (the male sex hormone) to grow and function.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer:
Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
Difficulty in passing urine
Passing more urine than normal, especially at night
Pain when passing urine
Blood in urine or semen (very rare)
These symptoms are the same for prostate cancer and an enlarged prostate so it is important to go to the GP as soon as they appear. The symptoms are usually caused because the growth is pressing on the urethra and is blocking the flow of urine. It is important to remember that early prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms because the growth is too small to affect the flow of urine. Prostate cancer usually grows quite slowly, especially in older gentleman. They may only suffer mild symptoms and they may occur over a number of years.
Causes and Risks:
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for UK men (not counting non melanoma). There are some risk factors:
* Age is the most significant of these risk factors. Prostate cancer is quite rare in men younger than fifty – in fact more than half of all prostate cancer cases are found in men aged seventy plus.
* Having a family history of breast cancer or prostate cancer will also heighten your risk of developing this type of cancer
* If you are of African ancestry then your risk is also higher as this type of cancer is more common in men of black or mixed race descent then white or Asian men
The aim of screening for prostate cancer is to diagnose the disease in the early stages when it is usually easier to treat and most likely to be curable. At the moment a national screening test is not available but research is being carried out and trials are taking place all the time.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
If your GP suspects prostate cancer then they will:
* Examine your prostate by placing a gloved finger into your back passage
* Get you to have a blood test to check your PSA levels (PSA = Prostate Specific Antigen)
This is not as painful or as embarrassing as it sounds. GP’s do this all the time and although having a finger inserted into your bottom may sound horrific, I am told by reliable sources that is really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Please don’t let the fear or embarrassment stop you getting this test if you feel you have a problem with your prostate – it could save your life.
With PSA levels, it is usually the higher the level, the more likely you are to have cancer. However, don’t be too alarmed by this fact – there could be another reason, for example an enlarged prostate or an infection. In fact, two out of three men with a raised PSA level do not have prostate cancer. It is possible for a man to have prostate cancer but not a high PSA level – this is where the gloved finger comes in handy.
Treating Prostate Cancer:
This is where my post will get complicated so I will try and keep it as clear and concise as possible!
Prostate cancer is divided up into stages. These stages will inform the doctor of how developed the cancer is and this information will help them decide on the best treatment plan for the patient in question. The stages are numbered 1-4 and your doctor will talk to you about your “TNM” which stands for Tumour, Nodes and Metastases. Basically this means they will discuss the size of the tumour, whether is has spread to any nearby lymph nodes and whether it has spread (metastasised) to anywhere else in your body.
Prostate cancer tends to spread to your bones rather than other organs. It is possible for it to metastasise even when the original prostate tumour is very small. This means early diagnosis is key to treating it and controlling it.
There are several factors doctors consider before deciding a treatment plan. These factors are:
* The stage of the cancer
* The grade of the cells (how they look under a microscope)
* Your Gleason score
* Your PSA levels
* Your age
* Your general health
Once these factors have been considered, your treatment options will become clearer and your doctor will discuss them with you. Please ask questions and make sure you feel comfortable with the treatment plan you are offered. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
If the cancer is low risk and is localised to the prostate area only, then active monitoring is likely to be your treatment option. This means the cancer will be monitored and the doctors will wait to see if it develops. If it does start to develop then surgery may be an option and the prostate gland could be removed. Radiotherapy is also an option at this stage.
If the cancer is classed as an intermediate risk but is localised to the prostate area then surgery to remove the prostate gland may be an option. Radiotherapy may also be considered.
A high risk, localised tumour will usually be treated with surgery and external radiotherapy.
If the cancer has broken through the capsule that surround the prostate gland then this is known as locally advanced prostate cancer. This will usually involve surgery or radiotherapy which will be combined with hormone treatments.
There are many types of surgery for prostate cancer; it is worth taking a look at www.cancerresearchuk.org to read about them. I would also recomend contacting Prostate Cancer UK at http://prostatecanceruk.org/
The testicles are part of the male reproductive system and are two oval shaped organs that hang just below the penis in a skin pouch called the scrotum. From puberty, sperm is produced in the testicles as is the hormone testosterone.
Testicular Cancer Symptoms:
The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or a swelling. PLEASE DON’T PANIC BECAUSE MOST TESTICULAR LUMPS ARE NOT CANCEROUS. A cancerous lump can vary in size but is usually not painful although some men will find they have a dull ache in the affected area or in their lower abdomen. The scrotum may feel heavy.
GUYS CHECK YOUR BALLS!
As I may have mentioned several hundred times before, cancer is easier to treat if it is caught early. Check your testicles often (once a month) and get to know how they feel normally. This will make it easier for you to notice and lumps and bumps that may appear. Get your partner to check them too so you have a second opinion if you need one.
The best time to check your testicles is after a warm bath because your scrotum skin will be relaxed. Here is a rough guide on how to check your testicles:
- * Hold your scrotum in the palms of your hands and use all your fingers and thumbs.
- * Gently feel one testicle at a time.
- * A noticeable increase in size or weight can be a sign that something is not right.
- * You should be able to feel a soft tube at the top and back of the testicle. This is normal
- * The actual testicle should be smooth with no lumps or swelling.
IF YOU DO FIND A LUMP OR HAVE CONCERN ABOUT YOUR TESTICLES, PLEASE MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR GP ASAP. IT MAY BE SLIGHTLY UNCOMFORTABLE FOR YOU BUT DETECTING ANYTHING WRONG AT AN EARLY STAGE COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE AND YOUR TESTICLE!!!
Risks and Causes of Testicular Cancer:
Cancer of the testicles is quite rare in the UK and not much is known about what causes it. However, there are several factors that can increase a man’s risk of developing the disease:
- * If a young boy has an undescended testicle than it should be corrected by the time they turn eleven to avoid an increase risk of testicular cancer.
- * Some men have Carcinoma in situ (CIS) which is basically abnormal but not cancerous cells in the testicle. These cells will have to be monitored to ensure they do not develop into cancer and are caught early if they do.
- * If you have a brother that has suffered from testicular cancer then research suggests this could increase your risk of developing it too. Around 20% (1 in 5) testicular cancer cases are caused by faulty inherited genes.
- * Ethnicity is also a factor. In the USA, white men are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer then black men. In the UK, testicular cancer is also much more common in white men. As yet, not much is known about why this is.
Treatment for Testicular Cancer
There are many factors to consider before your specialist will decide on a treatment plan for you. They will consider the stage, grade and position of the cancer as well as your general health and whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Treatment by Stage:
Stage One – If you have very early testicular cancer then the likelihood is that you will have surgery to remove the whole of the affected testicle. This is called an orchidectomy. You may also be offered Radiotherapy or Chemotherapy.
Stage Two - The treatment of stage two testicular cancers depends on the size of the affected lymph nodes. It may be treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Surgery to remove the lymph nodes may also be an option.
Stage Three – After surgery, stage three testicular cancers are always treated with chemotherapy to shrink the lymph nodes. If they don’t shrink back to a normal size then they may be removed or treated with radiotherapy.
A LITTLE SIDE NOTE – I NOW WORK IN A FERTILITY CLINIC AND HAVE LEARNT LOTS ABOUT FERTILITY. AS SPERM IS PRODUCED IN YOUR TESTICLES – I STRONGLY URGE ANYONE DIAGNOSED WITH TESTICULAR CANCER TO ASK THEIR SPECIALIST ABOUT FERTILITY BEFORE THEY START THEIR TREATMENT. IF YOUR FERTILITY WILL BE AFFECTED BY YOUR TREATMENT THEN STORING YOUR SPERM IS A VERY EASY PROCESS AND CAN BE DONE BEFORE YOU START YOUR TREATMENT. IT IS VITAL TO PROTECT YOUR ABILITY TO FATHER CHILDREN IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A FAMILY IN THE FUTURE.
So guys, I’m actually encouraging you to regularly have a good old feel of your testicles! It’s hugely important to know your own body and what is normal for you so abnormalities can be detected ASAP should they arise. This could save your life! Please do go to your GP if you have any worries about anything mentioned in my blog post today.
For more information about testicular cancer please visit www.cancerresearchuk.org or visithttp://www.orchid-cancer.org.uk/ which is a specialist charity for male cancers.
If you have testicular cancer and would like to preserve your sperm by freezing it – please speak to your specialist or visit http://www.londonwomensclinic.com/