Answers to Some Common Questions

• Do we know the cause of prostate cancer?

We do not know why some men get prostate cancer and others do not. As it is a growing phenomenon in the West, there may be a link with the Western lifestyle. There are a number of theories, but no real proof yet of what causes prostate cancer.

• Could I have prostate cancer despite having no symptoms?

Yes, you could. It is not uncommon for prostate cancer to be found during regular health checks despite patients having no symptoms whatever. This further emphasises the importance of asking your GP for a PSA test once you reach 50 or even earlier if there is a family history of the disease or you are black.

• Is time of the essence?

Prostate cancer, diagnosed at an early stage, may not grow rapidly at all. In such circumstances there may be plenty of time to consider and identify the right treatment. But in the event that it is an aggressive tumour or the disease is not diagnosed until a later stage, treatment needs to begin as soon as possible. Early diagnosis to establish the extent and nature of the cancer is important.

• Where can I find out more about the disease?

This booklet provides a useful summary of prostate cancer. If you want to get more information, there are many organisations (see page 23) that provide more detailed advice and also free helplines manned by specialist nurses or volunteer prostate cancer patients.

• Will I pass the cancer to others, and will my family inherit it?

While we do not know the cause of the cancer, it is not infectious and cannot be passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse or in any other way. Prostate cancer can however be inherited. Several genes have been identified which may make a man more susceptible to developing the disease. In other words, if you have a brother or father with prostate cancer, or a close female blood relative with breast cancer, then you are more likely to develop the disease than other men.

• Is prostate cancer likely to affect my day to day life?

Prostate cancer can affect some men more than others, depending on the stage and severity of the disease. However, most patients with prostate cancer continue to be active at work, at home and in their social life and this is encouraged.

• Will the disease affect my sex life?

Prostate cancer itself generally does not affect your sex life, except in the advanced stages. However, the treatment can lead to loss of erection. There are many treatments available to overcome this problem, including tablets, injections and vacuum devices which initiate an erection. Hormone treatment can also affect your sex drive as it reduces the level of testosterone.

• What if the cancer is already outside the prostate gland?

Sometimes at diagnosis, the cancer is found to have already spread outside the prostate gland and so cannot be cured by treatments to remove or treat the prostate. Some cancers grow very slowly and do not require treatment so a process of active surveillance is recommended. In other cases hormone therapy may be started, sometimes along with chemotherapy.

• What about other treatments?

Research is taking place around the world on developing new treatments for prostate cancer. These include new hormone treatments, chemotherapy, drugs that reduce the blood supply to the cancer, immunotherapy, oncolytic (‘cancer killing’) virus therapy, vaccine treatments and gene therapy. Royal Surrey County Hospital and Frimley Park Hospital have research projects and you may be asked to become involved in them. The Charity also helps fund research at the Oncology Group at the University of Surrey.

• What is the role of local prostate cancer support groups?

Local support groups offer confidential non-medical information and support based on the experiences of fellow sufferers. This information can be provided on the phone or face-to-face or at regular meetings. There is a local support group serving prostate cancer patients at Frimley Park Hospital, the Royal Surrey County Hospital (including St Luke’s Cancer Centre) and private hospitals throughout Surrey.

• What is the role of the Clinical Nurse Specialist?

A Clinical Nurse Specialist can play a vital role in your journey by acting as the link with the medical team looking after you. He/she can offer individualised information and support tailored to your own needs. Find out who he or she is!  You can read more about this role here.