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Prostate cancer in Australia

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia today (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). One in 5 Australian men will be diagnosed with the disease by age 85 and more than 25,000 Australian men are diagnosed with the disease each year.

The 5-year survival for prostate cancer has increased from 63% in the 1980s to 95.6% today, thanks to increased awareness about the disease, ongoing research and improved treatments. But around 3,700 Australian men still die from this disease each year.

This toolkit will help to improve awareness and early detection so that we can effectively treat and beat prostate cancer. This includes knowing the symptoms of prostate cancer. It will also help men make decisions about their treatment and improve quality of life in the days, weeks and years after diagnosis.

What is the prostate?

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The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland located below the bladder and in front of the rectum (the lower part of the intestine) in men. It surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder, and semen, out through the penis. The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system. It produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. Semen protects and provides nutrition for the sperm. The prostate needs the male hormone testosterone to grow and develop. Testosterone is made by the testicles.

Can signs and symptoms help diagnose prostate cancer?

Anyone with a prostate can get prostate cancer, including transgender women, non-binary people or intersex people.

Prostate cancer symptoms: what are they and do you need to know them?

As men reach their late 40s and 50s and grow older, the body starts to change, including the reproductive system and the prostate gland.

The most common and noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer are changes and problems with urinating, either because you need to urinate more frequently, or you can’t seem to empty your bladder comfortably. These are called lower urinary tract symptoms (or LUTS).

Common lower urinary symptoms you may or may not see in prostate cancer:

  • The urge to urinate more than usual during the day and night (note that waking once a night can be normal for men as they get older)
  • Sudden or urgent need to urinate, which is difficult to stop
  • Problems urinating such as:
    • Straining or trouble starting a stream
    • Not being able to urinate when the feeling is there
    • Poor urine flow, which may stop and start
    • Dribbling at the beginning or end
    • Discomfort or pain when urinating
    • Feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder (the organ that collects and empties urine)

Talk to your doctor or a PCFA Nurse if you have any urinary symptoms

Urinary symptoms are not always a sign you have prostate cancer but knowing them may help you spot prostate problems early.

Other symptoms that are more commonly seen in later stages of prostate cancer:

  • Finding blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in lower back, upper thighs, hips, pelvis, testicles or penis
  • Pain with ejaculation or difficulty getting or maintaining an erection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Incontinence (unexpected urine leakage)
  • Unexpected weight loss and tiredness
See your doctor immediately if you have blood in your urine or semen.

Remember: none of these symptoms alone suggest prostate cancer, but they are signs for considering a prostate check-up.

Anyone with a prostate can get prostate cancer, including transgender women, non-binary people or intersex people.

Because these symptoms could be symptoms of prostate cancer, if you experience any of them, you should see your doctor (GP) immediately. Keep in mind that the cause of your symptoms may not necessarily be prostate cancer, but it’s important to know for sure.

Either way, it’s always a good idea to see your GP straight away if you notice any changes in your body. Or call a PCFA nurse for more information and advice.

Prostate and urinary problems can get worse as you get older

As men age it is normal for the prostate to grow larger and about half of all men will have a prostate condition by the age of 70. An enlarged prostate can block the flow of urine from the bladder through the urethra making it difficult to urinate. However, a normal-sized prostate and an ageing bladder can also cause urination problems. Conditions that can cause urinary symptoms include:

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Prostatitis
  • Overactive pelvic floor
  • Underactive bladder
  • Overactive bladder
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Prostate cancer

Non-cancerous prostate conditions to know about

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, happens as men get older. About 50% of men over 50 and 80% of men over 80 will have some symptoms of BPH.

Another prostate disease is prostatitis. In this condition, the prostate becomes inflamed, swollen and painful. Prostatitis can be acute (comes on suddenly) or chronic (comes and goes over months or years).

Enlarged prostate

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An enlarged prostate can push inwards on the urethra causing partial or full blockage. This makes it difficult for urine to leave the body in a steady stream. The most common cause of this condition is benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

How are these conditions different to prostate cancer?

BPH and prostatitis cause lower urinary tract symptoms. But unlike prostate cancer they are benign (meaning there is no cancer).

Did you know you can have other prostate conditions at the same time as prostate cancer? Talk to your doctor if you have worrying symptoms

They are also not life-threatening and are treated with medications and sometimes surgery.

However, you can have these diseases at the same time as prostate cancer. If you have either of these conditions or are concerned about your symptoms ask your doctor if PSA testing for prostate cancer is appropriate for you. You can also talk to a PCFA nurse on 1800 22 00 99 or contact our telenursing service.

Key points

  • Ongoing research and improved treatments have increased the 5-year survival rates of prostate cancer to 95.5%
  • In its early stage, prostate cancer may not have any symptoms, so it is vital to know your individual risk factors
  • Challenges with urinating, including urinating frequently or not being able to empty your bladder with normal comfort are common symptoms in prostate cancer.
  • Other non-cancerous conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis can also cause urination problems.
  • Always see your doctor straight away if you notice any changes in your body.

Risk factors – Find out what might put you at risk for prostate cancer