For the first time in the UK since records began, the number of deaths from prostate cancer have overtaken those from breast cancer.
Prostate Cancer UK says advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer are paying off, and increased funding could help prevent the disease BBC reported. The latest figures from 2015 show there were 11,819 deaths from prostate cancer compared with 11,442 from breast cancer.
Over 47,000 new cases of prostate cancer were detected in 2015 and 84% survived the condition for 10 years or more according to 2010 data from Cancer Research UK. It is now the third highest death-causing form of cancer.
The prostate is a small gland only found in men. About the size of a walnut, it gets bigger with age and produces a thick, white fluid that mixes with the sperm from the testicles to make semen according to Macmillan.
Early detection is important for those potentially at risk. To find out more, IBTimes UK spoke to Prostate Cancer UK about what to expect at a check-up.
How do you get examined?
Laura James, Senior Specialist Nurse at Prostate Cancer UK told IBTimes UK: "One of the tests that your GP can do to help find out if you have a prostate problem is the digital rectal examination (DRE). This is where the doctor feels your prostate through the wall of your back passage (rectum).
"If you decide to have a DRE, you'll need to take off your trousers and underwear and lie on
your side on an examination table, with your knees brought up towards your chest. The
doctor or nurse will wear gloves and put some gel on their finger to make the examination
more comfortable. They'll then slide a finger gently into your back passage.
"If your prostate feels enlarged, this could be a sign of a common non-cancerous condition
called an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). If your
prostate feels hard or lumpy, this could be a sign of prostate cancer."
How accurate is the test?
The spokesperson said that the DRE test was useful but not completely accurate. Because the doctor can only feel one side of the prostate, there is the possibility of cancer being in the exterior parts. As a result, doctors take into account the individual's risk of developing prostate cancer and their general health. Depending on this, they will refer the patient for further testing.
What are some common misconceptions about a prostate exam?
"A prostate exam isn't usually painful and it takes less than a minute. Men may find the DRE slightly uncomfortable, but the gel the doctor puts on their finger should make it more comfortable."
What if the patient still feels uncomfortable?
"It isn't unusual to feel worried or embarrassed about having a prostate examination, but keep in mind it's a very routine part of a GP's practice; they are used to doing it. It's your choice whether to have the test, but it will help your doctor find out whether you have a prostate problem, and what treatments could help it."
They recommend requesting to be examined by a male or female GP. Being comfortable with the doctor or nurse at hand means that you can be open about your anxieties.
"If you're still worried about the test, speak to the Specialist Nurses at Prostate Cancer UK on 0800 074 8383, or chat to them online. They can listen to your concerns and give you information and support."
Whilst the latest news about the number of fatalities might feel overwhelming or trigger some nerves about going for a test, the important thing to note is that since their introduction, the number of prostate cancer patients has dropped. There is no need to fear the exams but there is help and support if you do.