The prostate gland is found in most cis-men and transwomen and is about the size of a walnut. It surrounds the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder, and lies in front of the rectum, at the base of the penis. The prostate gland plays an important role in sexuality and reproduction, producing fluid that forms part of semen, and being a point of stimulation during sexual intercourse.
Importance for people 50+
It is common for the prostate to grow, as men get older. However, prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men, besides some types of skin cancer, and affects 1 in 6 men by the age of 85. The major risk factor for prostate cancer is age, with few men under the age of 50 experiencing prostate cancer. A family history of prostate cancer may also increase a person’s risk, along with a strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. A diet that is high in animal fat, or low in vegetables may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
There does not appear to be an increased risk of prostate cancer in people living with HIV, in fact in some studies, it appears to be slightly reduced.
Prostate cancer often causes no symptoms, particularly in the early stages. However, people with advanced prostate cancer may experience weight loss, difficulty or changes with urination, blood in the urine or semen, or bone pain – especially in the lower back or pelvis. Unlike bowel, breast and cervical cancers, routine screening for prostate cancer is not recommended routinely, but might be helpful in some individuals. Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of screening for prostate cancer.
If your healthcare professional suspects that you may have prostate cancer, they may perform some tests to investigate further. The most common tests are a blood test for a prostate specific antigen, and a digital rectal examination. If these suggest changes in the prostate, then you may be referred to a specialist, called a urologist, for an MRI and/or biopsy.
If prostate cancer is detected, additional tests may be required to determine where the cancer has spread, which may involve a number of different clinicians in your care. Treatment for prostate cancer depends on how aggressive your cancer is and how far it has spread. Treatment may involve monitoring, surgery, including removing the prostate altogether, radiotherapy, medications that reduce the effect of testosterone on the prostate, or sometimes chemotherapy.