March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re all encouraged to ‘March for Men’ to raise awareness of the disease and raise money for research and support for sufferers. As the most common form of cancer among men in the UK, it affects nearly 40,000 men each year. Symptoms can take years to present themselves, but if you do spot signs, it’s important that you see your GP. Knowing what happens during an exam can put you at ease and give you the confidence to make an appointment.
What happens during a prostate examination?
Prostate cancer can take a while to present symptoms. Usually, symptoms will only become noticeable when the cancer has become large enough to put pressure on the urethra, and can include:
- A more frequent urge to urinate (especially at night)
- Difficulty in starting to urinate
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak flow of urine
- Feeling like your bladder isn’t empty
If you start showing any of these symptoms, you should book an appointment with your GP, who can carry out blood tests as well as a prostate examination to check for prostate cancer.
A prostate examination (also known as a digital rectal exam) is done to check for abnormalities in the rectum, and can lead to feelings of embarrassment for many men. The truth is that the examination isn’t painful and only takes a few minutes, but could save your life.
During the examination, you’ll be asked to lie down on your left side and to bring your knees up towards your chest. The doctor will put on a glove and insert a lubricated finger into the anus and feel up into your rectum and examine your prostate for any lumps or hard areas. You’ll then be able to put your clothes back on and discuss the examination with your doctor. It’s a procedure that takes minutes to complete and is carried out routinely every day. If further tests are needed, your doctor will discuss this with you.
About Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month takes place each March in the hope it will help reduce the number of lives the disease claims each year. By making people aware of the symptoms, prostate cancer can be caught early, helping to give men the best chance of successful treatment.
Prostate Cancer UK says that 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer. Men are at a higher risk if:
- They are aged over 50, as the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age.
- They have a family history of the disease, such as a father or brother or if a mother or sister has had breast cancer under the age of 60 and had the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
- Black men are more likely to get prostate cancer. The reason is currently unknown, but with current estimations at 1 in 4, it’s important to discuss the risks with your GP.
This year’s campaign sees Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling walk 400 miles to help raise awareness, with volunteers also taking part along the way. Whether you donate, walk, share information on social media or simply make yourself more aware of the symptoms, you’ll be doing your bit to help beat prostate cancer in the UK.
If you’re at all concerned about prostate cancer or are displaying symptoms, make sure you book an appointment with your GP. Your local practice will also be able to provide you with useful information about risk factors and checks. Find more information about prostate cancer and the symptoms to look out for on the NHS Choices website.