Prostate cancer symptoms? How to test for Stephen Fry's condition and treatment to expect

The NHS lists the following symptoms:

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

Do you have to have a rectal exam to check for prostate cancer?

Professor Hashim Ahmed, Consultant Urological Surgeon at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital said the first test a doctor usually carries out is a simple blood test called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).

He added: “A rectal exam can help identify obvious abnormalities on the surface of the prostate even if the PSA is normal. If you have a raised PSA, or the rectal exam shows a lump, your doctor may refer you for a MRI scan in a specialised unit, which is a much more effective way of detecting prostate cancer.

“It’s important to note that your PSA can be high if you have prostate cancer but it can also be higher than normal if there is an infection, inflammation or you have a large prostate. Recent sexual activity before the test or cycling due to the pressure from a saddle can also raise your PSA levels, so make sure your GP is aware of anything that could affect the test.”

If you've heard prostate cancer doesn’t need to be treated, why should you bother seeing the doctor about it?

Professor Ahmed said: “You should absolutely see your doctor if you experience any signs of prostate cancer. Although prostate cancer is a slow moving cancer, it’s best to catch it early. The new approach we take at Bupa to diagnose prostate cancer is with an accurate MRI scan before the biopsy, which means that we are more likely to accurately identify cancers that definitely should be treated. MRI interestingly has a lower chance of finding the low risk small cancers that don’t normally grow or spread. This means that doing an MRI before biopsy and targeting only those men with a suspicious MRI leads to fewer men being diagnosed with the sorts of cancers that don’t need to be treated.

“Once you are diagnosed, doctors will look at the risk of cancer. Medium and high risk cancers in men who are likely to survive 5-10 years or longer should be treated as leaving the cancer alone will cause problems from the cancer growing and spreading.

“So, the strategy for diagnosing and treating prostate cancer is much more refined than it was in the past in specialist centres that are expert at delivering the new diagnostic tests and new treatments that have fewer side effects. This pathway is available to patients that don’t have Bupa insurance as well as those that do.”

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