Prostate Cancer: Separating fact from fiction
In the UK prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with more than 47,500 men being diagnosed with this condition every year – that is 129 men every day. Despite this, misunderstandings about the disease are common, which is why we wanted to get the facts straight and dispel the common myths.
1. “Only old men get prostate cancer”
This is a myth. Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, but your risk does increase as you get older. The average age to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 65-69. If you’re under 50, your risk is very low. It is still possible to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in your forties, but it’s uncommon.
If you're over 45 but have a higher risk of prostate cancer (e.g. if you have a family history of prostate cancer) speak to your GP about whether the PSA test is right for you.
2. “If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t have prostate cancer”
This is false. Most men with early prostate cancer do not have any symptoms. If a man does have symptoms, such as problems peeing, they might be mild and happen over many years.
For some men the first noticeable symptoms are from prostate cancer which has spread to their bones. If this happens, you may notice pain in your back, hips or pelvis that was not there before. These symptoms could be caused by other problems such as general aches and pains or arthritis, but it is still a good idea to get them checked out if you are concerned.
3. “Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer I don’t need to worry about”
Yes and no. Prostate cancer is often slow growing and may not cause any problems or symptoms in your lifetime. The treatments for prostate cancer can cause long-term side effects which may have a big impact on daily life. This is why we have ‘watchful waiting’. This is a way of monitoring prostate cancer that isn't causing any symptoms or problems. The aim is to keep an eye on the cancer over the long term, and avoid treatment unless you get symptoms.
4. “Just because my Dad had prostate cancer doesn’t mean I’m more likely to get it”
This is incorrect. If your father has been diagnosed with prostate cancer then you are two and half times more likely to get prostate cancer, compared to a man with no relatives with prostate cancer. The same is true if you have a brother who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
5. “A high PSA level means I have prostate cancer”
This is not true. Although most men with prostate cancer will have a higher level of PSA, not all men with a high PSA will have prostate cancer. Your PSA can rise for other reasons such as a urine infection, inflammation in the prostate or benign prostate enlargement. If you have a high PSA, further tests will help get a clearer picture.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.