Prostate cancer: what Yorkshire men need to know

Date: 25 March 2021

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in Yorkshire. March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re urging all men in the region to look out for the symptoms. Here is what you and the men in your life need to know.
 

What is the prostate? 

The prostate is a small organ found in men which sits below the bladder, and surrounds a tube called the urethra which carries urine from the bladder to the penis. Its main function is to produce fluid found in semen. 

 

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer? 

Prostate cancer does not usually cause symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra.  

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include: 

  • Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night; 
  • Needing to rush to the toilet (urgency); 
  • Difficulty in starting to pass urine (hesitancy); 
  • Straining or taking a long time while urinating; 
  • Weak flow when urinating; 
  • Feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied; or 
  • Blood in your urine or semen. 

However, for some of these symptoms there are many possible causes. So having these symptoms does not mean you definitely have prostate cancer.  

For example, in many men their prostates get larger as they get older, because of a non-cancerous condition called ‘benign prostate enlargement' (or ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia’). This can cause many of the symptoms listed above.  

 

How many men get prostate cancer in Yorkshire?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Men in Yorkshire are more likely to get prostate cancer than men in England as a whole.  

In 2018, there was a large increase in the number of prostate cancers diagnosed in Yorkshire – around 4700 men were diagnosed – which is an increase of 26% compared to 2017. This is possibly because of increased awareness of the condition following announcements from actor Stephen Fry and broadcaster Bill Turnbull of their own prostate cancer diagnoses (which has become known as a ‘Fry-Turnbull effect’).  

 

Who is at risk of developing prostate cancer?

1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.  

The main factor that influences risk of prostate cancer is age – almost all cases are diagnosed in the over-50s. 

In Yorkshire in 2018, 7 in 10 men diagnosed with prostate cancer were between the ages of 60-79. Only 1 in 10 men were below the age of 60. 

Family history of cancer may also be important. Having a brother or father who developed prostate cancer before the age of 60 can be an indication that you have an increased risk of developing it. Research also suggests having a close female relative who developed breast cancer may also increase your risk.  

Men with genetic mutations such as BRCA2 and Lynch syndrome have a significantly higher risk of prostate cancer. 

Ethnicity also appears to play a role in prostate cancer risk. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, compared to White or Asian men.  

Contrary to popular belief, having benign prostate enlargement does not mean that you’re more likely to develop prostate cancer. 

Unlike other common cancers, there are no proven links between preventable risk factors and prostate cancer. Some research suggests that obesity and certain aspects of diet might play a role in increasing risk of the prostate cancer, but more research is needed to confirm this.  

 

Why is it important we find prostate cancer early?

In 2018, 943 men died from prostate cancer in Yorkshire.  

Men in Yorkshire are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage than men in England as a whole (48% in Yorkshire compared to 41% in England).  

The positive news is that the likelihood of surviving prostate cancer is high if the cancer is found early before it has had a chance to grow and spread. When cancer is found early, it can usually be treated more successfully. An early diagnosis also means that in many cases, treatments that cause long term side effects can be avoided.  

Overall, almost 9 in 10 men (88%) diagnosed with prostate cancer in England survive for five years or more. However, like any cancer, the later that prostate cancer is diagnosed the more difficult it can be to treat. 

So it’s really important to contact your GP as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms listed. The symptoms might not be caused by prostate cancer, but if they are, being diagnosed early could save your life.  

 

What will happen if I go to the doctor with symptoms? 

If your GP suspects your symptoms could be caused by prostate cancer, there are a few different tests that you could be offered.  

Firstly, you’ll likely have blood taken to look for a molecule called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). High levels of PSA in the blood can sometimes indicate prostate cancer. However, there are many reasons why you might have high PSA levels, and in fact most men with high PSA will not have prostate cancer.  

The GP could also examine your prostate with a rectal examination, by inserting a finger into your rectum to feel if your prostate is swollen.  

You may also be asked to give a urine sample, to see if there is an infection which could provide another explanation of the symptoms you’re having.  

Depending on the results of these tests, and risk factors such as your age, ethnicity and previous family history, your GP may refer you to a hospital to have an MRI scan of your prostate. If this shows a problem, you might also have a biopsy, where a small sample of your prostate is taken with a needle to look for cancerous changes.  

 

If you, or a man in your life, have any unusual symptoms, it’s vital you contact your GP as soon as possible. If the symptoms do turn out to be caused by prostate cancer, then finding it early gives the best possible chances of survival.  

The symptoms to look out for are: 

  • Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night; 
  • Needing to rush to the toilet (urgency); 
  • Difficulty in starting to pass urine (hesitancy); 
  • Straining or taking a long time while urinating; 
  • Weak flow when urinating; 
  • Feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied; or 
  • Blood in your urine or semen.

 

References 

Haraldsdottir S, Hampel H, Wei L, Wu C, Frankel W, Bekaii-Saab T, de la Chapelle A, Goldberg RM. Prostate cancer incidence in males with Lynch syndrome. Genet Med. 2014 Jul;16(7):553-7. doi: 10.1038/gim.2013.193. Epub 2014 Jan 16. PMID: 24434690; PMCID: PMC4289599. 

Breast Cancer Linkage Consortium. Cancer risks in BRCA2 mutation carriers. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999 Aug 4;91(15):1310-6. doi: 10.1093/jnci/91.15.1310. PMID: 10433620. 

NHS, Prostate Cancer

CancerData, Cancer Incidence 2018 

NCRAS, Stage data by CCG

PHE, Cancer survival in England for patients diagnosed between 2014 and 2018, and followed up to 2019

Help us do more

Your support will help us save more Yorkshire lives.

Fundraising Events Shop with us Volunteering Cancer in Yorkshire
career-infant