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Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Shining a spotlight on the most common cancer in men.


Man showing a heart during Heart Month

about PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH



March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time to join together to transform the future of prostate cancer for the 52,000 men diagnosed with it every year on average in the UK. Over the years a tremendous progress has been made into prostate cancer research, yet the prostate cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer among British men, with 1 in 8 expected to get prostate cancer in their lifetime. Although prostate cancer is very treatable if caught early, it is estimated that every 45 minutes one man dies from prostate cancer in the UK. With the research suggesting that the treatment at stages 1 and 2 has a near 100% survival rate compared to around 50% at stage 4, it’s vitally important that the men with prostate cancer are found quickly before their cancer spreads. That's why, the mission of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is to get people involved in local and national events to learn more about prostate cancer, and encourage men to contact their GP if they think they might be at risk of prostate cancer or are experiencing any symptoms, as the early detection is the key to successful treatment.



what is prostate cancer?




Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland which is part of the male reproductive system. Cancer is when abnormal cells start to divide and grow in an uncontrolled way. The cells can grow into surrounding tissues or organs, and may spread to other areas of the body.


There are a number of different types of prostate cancer:



Risk factors


Although, the exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of getting it:

  • Age - Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50, and the risk increases as men get older. The most common age for men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer is between 70 and 74 years. If a man is under 50, his risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer is very low, but it is possible.

  • Ethnicity - Black men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer. The reason for this is not clear, but it may be because of genetic factors. Black men are also more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age. 'Prostate cancer and other prostate problems: Information for black men' leaflet from Prostate Cancer UK has further information on that.

  • Family history - A man is two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if his father or brother has had it, compared to a man who has no relatives with prostate cancer. The chance of getting prostate cancer may be even greater if a father or brother was under 60 when they were diagnosed, or if a man has more than one close relative (father or brother) with prostate cancer. The risk of getting prostate cancer may also be higher if man's mother or sister has had breast cancer or ovarian cancer. This is because of the possibility of inheriting the same faulty genes.



You can check your risk of developing prostate cancer with Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker.


“It can feel daunting confronting issues but talking about cancer can save lives, and it is so important that anyone at higher risk or who has concerns, follows the lead of people like Stephen Fry, Rod Stewart and Bill Turnbull, to get seen and treated as quickly as possible”

Symptoms


Most men with early prostate cancer that's contained inside the prostate, don't have any signs or symptoms. This is because of the way the cancer grows. Men will usually get the symptoms if the cancer grows near and presses against the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis. If this happens, men can experience problems while urinating, such as:

  • Needing to rush to the toilet to pass urine

  • Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night

  • Difficulty in passing urine

  • Feeling that a bladder has not emptied fully

  • Blood in urine or semen


Although these symptoms can also be caused by an enlarged prostate, it's important to have them checked by a doctor, who can do further tests to find out if a referral to a specialist doctor is needed.


If prostate cancer has already spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic prostate cancer), it can cause symptoms such as back or bone pain, tiredness and unexplained weight loss.


A man having a GP appointment to discuss PSA test results

Diagnosis


There's no single, definitive test diagnosing prostate cancer. There's a number of tests which include:

  • a digital rectal examination - checking prostate gland for abnormal signs such as lumps or hard areas. To examine a prostate, the doctor puts a gloved finger into a back passage (rectum).

  • a PSA blood test - it's used to determine the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) which is a protein made in the prostate. Prostate cancer often causes a raised level of PSA, however the test is not always reliable, as a raised level of PSA does not always mean a person has a prostate cancer. This is because as men get older, the level of PSA in the blood rises slowly. A raised level of PSA in the blood for a short time can also be caused by urine infections, recent ejaculation, prostate or bladder surgery, having a tube to drain pee, or receiving anal sex. Also, some medicines can change the result of a PSA test.

  • an MRI scan - it uses magnets to create a detailed picture of a prostate and the surrounding tissues.

  • a biopsy - this involves a doctor removing samples of prostate tissue with a fine needle. A pathologist then looks at the samples under the microscope to check for cancer.


There are also further tests which can help specialists decide on the stage of a cancer. The stage of a cancer describes its size and how far it has spread. These test may include a CT scan and a bone scan, as the bones are the most common place for prostate cancer to spread to beyond the lymph nodes.


'Having tests for prostate cancer' booklet from Macmillan Cancer UK provides further information on these tests.


Treatment


The treatment depends on a number of factors including how big the cancer is, whether it has spread anywhere else in the body and the overall health. a multidisciplinary team (MDT) will be able to recommend what they feel are the best treatment options. These can include:

  • Surgery to remove the prostate (prostatectomy)

  • External radiotherapy, which uses high-energy x-rays to destroy the cancer cells

  • Internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) which gives high doses of radiation directly to the prostate

  • Active surveillance to monitor early prostate cancer with regular tests. It can help to avoid unnecessary treatment and side effects

  • Hormonal therapy to reduce the amount of testosterone in the body

  • Watchful waiting is monitoring that does not involve regular tests or biopsies

  • Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells


Cancer treatments can be complex and cause various side effects. For example, some type of treatment may affect man's sex life and fertility. You can listen to a below podcast from Prostate Cancer UK or visit  Macmillan Cancer Support website to find out more about different treatment options.




SUPPORT IN THE WORKPLACE


Happy team at working having a chat during break


Cancer can have a profound impact on people and the workplace. Therefore, it's crucial for organisations to understand how to support employees diagnosed with prostate cancer and promote the importance of early diagnosis. There are a few things that employers can do:


  • Raise awareness of prostate cancer  Provide employees with information and tools that can help them understand the risk factors associated with prostate cancer and what symptoms they should be aware of. From sharing relevant resources like booklets, articles, videos and podcasts via Intranet, to displaying posters and leaflets in staff rooms, canteens or on notice boards around the workplace. To go one step further, you can also organise an educational workshop led by a healthcare professional. At Corazon we offer a 'Prostate cancer' webinar/seminar which can help enhance staff's understanding of prostate cancer.

  • Get advice from Occupational Health Employees diagnosed with prostate cancer will need some time off work for tests, appointments and treatments, and they might also need time away to cope with their feelings. Some people stop working during treatment and for some time after, while others may carry on working, perhaps with reduced hours or other temporary changes to their job. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, therefore to effectively support individuals with prostate cancer, employers should refer them to occupational health services. Through our Management Referral service, Occupational Health Advisors can advise on reasonable adjustments and provide guidance on how to support the employee on an ongoing basis. They can also devise a suitable return to work plan if employee is on a long-term leave.

  • Prioritise mental health and provide employees with an access to support services Many people diagnosed with prostate cancer may feel frightened, worried, stressed, or even angry. They may loose sense of security and feel as if they have very little control over their lives. Diagnosis can also make them uncertain about their future. Although these emotions are normal, they can be difficult to cope with and can get worse over time, especially if someone feels isolated. Therefore, it’s crucial that organisations prioritise employees' mental wellbeing and provide them with support services such as counselling and EAP schemes. At Corazon Health we are able to organise both face to face and telephone counselling sessions for your employees. All sessions are conducted by practitioners registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy who can help employee to address feelings and learn ways to cope with challenges. We also offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which provides 24/7, 365 counselling, legal and information line, as well as medical information line where qualified counsellors, nurses and advisors are on-hand to offer support and guidance on a range of issues.


  • Advise employees where to seek additional help  A prostate cancer diagnosis can be confusing and overwhelming for patients and they may not know where to turn for more information and support. But there are many charities and organisations that offer additional help and guidance for anyone diagnosed with cancer. Provide your employees with the details of how they can contact these organisations for support, for instance:


  • Prostate Cancer UK - it offers a wellbeing hub, one-to-one support, free and confidential helpline, e-mail service, online chat, as well as online community

  • Macmillan Support - people can call their specialist nurses for free, send an email, use online chat, join online community, apply for a Macmillan Grant, get information about financial help, sign up for support from a Macmillan Buddy or look for support groups in their local area.

  • Tackle Prostate Cancer - they have over 150 Tackle Support Groups across the country, which are run by people who have been impacted by prostate cancer. Their aim is that men can access a safe and welcoming space with a chance to connect with others who are also on their prostate cancer journey. From walking and cycling activities, to having a chat over a cup of tea.

  • Prostate Scotland - it offers a comprehensive range of support services, helping men across Scotland navigate prostate cancer and disease. For example a free 12-week healthy living and exercise programme, online courses, and cancer support groups.

  • Cancer Research UK - it offers a free telephone helpline and e-mail service where people can ask a specialist nurse questions.



Man with prostate cancer attending support group


  • Provide guidance for line managers Line managers are an important source of support for an employee diagnosed with cancer for a variety of reasons. They are responsible for the day-to-day management of the employee including their workload and can change the level of pressure or demand on them. They can also play an important role in making any reasonable adjustments for the employee and are usually the first point of contact for an employee. However, they may not always feel confident about how best to support an employee who is affected by cancer. Therefore, managers should be equipped with the relevant knowledge via training to enhance their understanding of prostate cancer and its impact on employees. This training can focus on fostering empathy, effective communication and how to accommodate employees’ needs. Macmillan at Work website has plenty of resources and guidance on how you can support employees.  10 top tips for line managers  leaflet has also some useful information.



While there are legal reasons for supporting employees with prostate cancer, including the legislation under the Equality Act 2010 that protects the rights of people with cancer at work, there are also other benefits to doing so. Supporting staff through illness can boost morale in the workplace and build inclusive culture. Moreover, retaining talented and skilled employees can also help maintain institutional knowledge and expertise while also reducing costs associated with recruitment and training.


 

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