In honour of “Movember” – the annual movement that raises awareness and funds for researching men’s health – we asked DR LIM SEY KIAT TERENCE, senior consultant urologist and medical director at Assure Urology & Robotic Centre, to share some facts on prostate cancer symptoms and screening, and also the treatment options for prostate cancer. Here’s what you need to know so you can make informed decisions about your health – or at least, inspire your partner to do so!
#1 Prostate cancer is completely curable if caught early
Many patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer in its early stages have gone on to make a full recovery. Statistics have shown that there is a 95 to 99 percent survival rate in men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer while it is localised. This percentage drops to 31 percent when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
#2 There’s a blood test that can detect prostate cancer
Unlike many other cancers, there is a simple blood test that can help doctors predict the risk of prostate cancer in its early stages when the disease is still asymptomatic. The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test analyses the levels of PSA in the blood; an elevated PSA can indicate prostate inflammation, infection, enlargement or cancer.
However, an elevated PSA level does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. You will need further evaluation by your urologist, who will perform a digital rectal examination to detect any suspicious nodules in your prostate. Additionally, other diagnostic tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the prostate will help to further stratify the risk of cancer. The confirmation test is a biopsy of the prostate under ultrasound with or without MRI fusion to obtain tissues for definitive diagnosis of cancer.
#3 Prostate cancer is asymptomatic in its early stages
The PSA blood test is particularly useful for this reason. It can aid the detection of prostate cancers at the early stages when there are no symptoms of prostate cancer. Population-based systematic PSA screening remains controversial. However, PSA testing and early detection are associated with survival benefits. Major international guidelines recommend an individualised approach to PSA testing. Do have a discussion with your doctor to decide if you can benefit from PSA testing.
#4 Urinary problems could be a later-stage warning sign
Prostate cancer may obstruct urinary flow and result in urination issues. Urinary symptoms to look out for include:
- getting up in the night to urinate;
- problems with stopping or starting urination;
- a decreased flow in urination; and
- blood in urine or semen.
If you experience any of these prostate cancer symptoms, do visit your urologist.
#5 The risk of prostate cancer increases with age
Luckily, with regular monitoring, prostate cancer can be detected earlier. This means that treatment can start promptly if required, increasing the chances of recovery. After discussion with your urologist, regular PSA testing may be recommended in men above the ages of 50 to 55 years.
Other risk factors for prostate cancer include having a family history of the disease, cigarette smoking and being of African- American descent.
#6 Treatment is not always necessary
Not all cases are aggressive or require treatment. It really depends on the severity of the individual patient’s cancer. For example, doctors may not necessarily treat prostate cancer immediately if it’s in the early stages and the cancer is low-risk. Instead, they may recommend active surveillance. This involves regular blood tests, rectal exams and prostate biopsies. This will monitor the progression of low-risk prostate cancer, which tends to be slow growing.
Treatment options for prostate cancer
If prostate cancer does require treatment, there are various options available. Treatment options for prostate cancer are dependent on the stage of the cancer. Localised prostate cancers can be treated with radiation therapy or surgery such as radical prostatectomy, which involves the removal of the entire prostate. Thankfully, advancements in technology have introduced laparoscopic or robot-assisted alternatives. This entails smaller incisions and less tissue damage, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery and better outcomes.
Treatment of advanced prostate cancers, where the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, usually involve androgen deprivation therapy combined with novel hormonal agents or chemotherapy.
Assure Urology & Robotic Centre
#17-16 Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 3 Mount Elizabeth
9835 0668 | 6257 0668
This article first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
Check out more in our Health section.