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Cancers that are found within the prostate gland only are known as early prostate cancer. Men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have any symptoms at all. Prostate cancers usually only cause symptoms when they are large enough to disturb your bladder or press on the tube that drains urine. For that reason, the symptoms of prostate cancer, when they appear, are like the symptoms of an enlarged prostate .
The symptoms of prostate cancer include:
If you have any of the above symptoms, get them checked out by your doctor. But remember that most enlarged prostate glands are not cancer and can be easily treated.
First, visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. Your GP can examine you and do some blood tests. If your GP is still concerned about you, he or she can refer you to a hospital specialist called a urologist for more tests.
This is a blood test to measure the PSA level in your blood. A small sample of blood is taken from your arm using a needle and syringe. PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland that can be found into your bloodstream. Sometimes a raised PSA level can be a sign of prostate cancer. But more often it is caused by something less serious like an inflamed prostate or an enlarged prostate that comes with ageing.
A single PSA test cannot show you if a prostate cancer is present or if it is slow or fast growing. At present, a normal result is anything up to 4ng/mL. The rate at which the PSA doubles is important too, so PSA levels should be compared regularly. For example, if your PSA was 2 last year and 4 this year, it may need to be checked out.
This involves your doctor putting a gloved finger into your back passage to feel your prostate. This test can find cancers that are in nearby tissues, but overall it can find less than half of prostate cancers. The test may be a little uncomfortable but is quick.
For more information on the symptoms and diagnosis of prostate cancer, please see our booklet Understanding the PSA test.
In February 2010 the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) produced National Prostate Cancer Referral Guidelines for General Practitioners. These provide advice for GP´S about the referral process for men with suspected prostate cancer, including advice on where Rapid Access Prostate Cancer Centres are located and direct contact information for health care staff.
The NCCP is in the process of establishing rapid access clinics for the assessment of patients with suspected prostate cancer. These clinics will be located in each of the Cancer Centres. The rapid access clinics are currently open and operating in:
These clinics provide rapid access to a prostate clinic where they will be assessed by a Urologist and will have access to a Urology nurse.
The clinics have been established in an effort to speed up the process of referring men with a possible prostate cancer, to bypass waiting times for out-patient clinics and to provide access to prostate biopsy more quickly for those who need it.
It is anticipated that more clinics will become operational in early 2010, in Waterford Regional Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin , and Cork University Hospital.
This scan uses sound waves to build up a picture of the tissues inside your body. To scan the prostate gland, a small device called a probe is passed into your back passage and an image of the prostate appears on a computer screen. This type of scan is used to measure the size of the prostate. The scan may be uncomfortable but only takes a few minutes.
The best way to diagnose prostate cancer is by taking samples of the tissues . It is usually done at the same time as an ultrasound. This involves putting a plastic probe into your back passage and passing a needle through the wall of your back passage to take samples (usually 6–12) from the prostate. Your doctors will then use a microscope to look for any cancer cells in the sample.
If the tests show that you have prostate cancer, you may need other tests. This is called staging and can help your doctor to decide on the right treatment for you. Possible tests are:
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