Despite prostate cancer being one of the most common cancers in men, representing 25% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in the European region, only 48% of men in Europe are aware of the risk of Prostate Cancer and early detection options. Moreover, the sensitive nature of the disease and associated effects of the treatments may lead some men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer to avoid opening up to those around them, including their family, friends and healthcare professionals.
For the prostate cancer patient community, it’s crucial to raise awareness of its symptoms and make sure more men can seek medical advice and receive a timely diagnosis, which can positively impact the evolution of the disease.
The prostate is a gland roughly the size of a walnut – though often bigger in older men - located between the penis and the bladder. It produces semen which is then transported via the urethra that runs through its centre.
Prostate cancer occurs when normal cells within the prostate mutate and begin to grow in an uncontrolled manner. Sometimes, cancer cells can leave the prostate and spread to other parts of the body. Doctors make the following distinction between different types of prostate cancer:
Localised prostate cancer: the cancer growth is confined to the prostate gland and has not spread to other parts of the body. The speed at which the cancer grows and spreads can vary per person.
Locally advanced prostate cancer: the cancer has just spread beyond the prostate gland to the surrounding area(s).
Metastatic prostate cancer: the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and can no longer be cured.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in men, representing 25% of new cancer cases diagnosed among men. Every year, approximately 450,000 men are diagnosed
with prostate cancer in Europe, and more than two million Europeans are living with the disease.
Unfortunately, the cause of prostate cancer is still unclear, but well-established risk factors have been identified:
• Age: the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 69 years.
• Ethnic origin: prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men of African descent.
• Family history: those with a history of prostate cancer in their family are at a higher risk of developing the condition themselves.
While the link between obesity and the development of prostate cancer remains unclear, well-designed studies have found that obesity can have an important impact on the progression of the disease. Men who are overweight are more likely to experience an aggressive form of the disease.
More often than not, prostate cancer is asymptomatic, a ‘silent disease’ which means that there are no specific symptoms associated with it. Occasional backaches and an increased and often sudden need to urinate are common symptoms of senior age. However, when pain persists and urinating becomes more and more uncomfortable, there might be more than age at play.
The cause of prostate cancer is largely unknown, and many people show no related symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
Urinary symptoms, such as a constant and sudden need to urinate, difficulty urinating, a weak flow, and the feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly, are usually early indicators of prostate cancer, though they can also be indicative of non-cancerous prostate diseases, such as an enlarged prostate and prostatitis.
Other symptoms may occur in more advanced stages of prostate cancer, meaning that the cancer has broken out of the prostate and possibly spread to other parts of the body. These can include:
• Back, hip or pelvis pain
• Blood in the urine or semen
• Difficulty in having an erection
• Unexplained weight loss
It is important to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you experience any such symptoms. Diagnosing prostate cancer earlier will likely have a better prognosis and can be easier to treat.
There are different tools for diagnosis, the most common being:
• Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): the doctor digitally inspects your rectum to check for possible changes to your prostate gland.
• Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test: a blood test that detects the level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate and may be indicative of the disease being present.
• Gleason Score: a test that indicates how aggressive the prostate cancer is. A higher number means that the cancer is more aggressive and more likely to spread.
• Prostate biopsy: you will be referred to a health care provider who will sample a small piece of tissue from your prostate gland for examination.
• Other: Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI), Computerised Tomography (CT) or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan to get a better view of the size of the cancer and the extent of spread.
These are the different stages of prostate cancer:
Stage II and III
The cancer is confined to the prostate gland and usually cannot be felt
The cancer is still within the prostate but can be felt via rectal examination
Stage II and III
The cancer has started to spread beyond the prostate to nearby tissues.
The cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the bladder, rectum, or bones.
There are several treatment options for prostate cancer, and often, it ultimately comes down to the patient to decide which option to pursue. If your cancer is asymptomatic and low risk, treatment may do more harm than good. In some cases, active surveillance will be advised, which requires regular check-ups with Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) tests, Digital Rectal Exam (DRE), Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) scans, and other exams. Re-biopsies are sometimes needed as well. If tests results change, treatment may be considered.
When diagnosed with locally advanced prostate cancer, treatment will depend on your individual situation. Your doctor will propose an appropriate plan based on your age, health and stage of the cancer.
Usually, the standard approaches to treatment are:
• Active surveillance: Medications, radiation and surgery aren't used. Periodic tests check for signs the cancer is growing. You might consider active surveillance for prostate cancer if your cancer is small, expected to grow very slowly, confined to one area of your prostate, and isn't causing signs or symptoms. If you have certain health problems that makes certain treatments unsuitable, active surveillance for prostate cancer may also be a reasonable approach.
• Surgery: eliminating the cancerous cells through the removal of the prostate.
• Radiation therapy: using radiation to kill cancerous cells.
• Hormone therapy: blocks cancer cells form getting the hormones they need to grow.
• Chemotherapy: using special drugs to shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills or medicines given through your veins, or both.
As with any therapy, cancer treatments can cause side effects, so it is important to discuss your options with your medical team. Be as open and honest as possible and address every concern you may have to make a decision that fits your therapeutic needs.
If diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, your doctor will advise treatments to help manage and relieve symptoms.
Being diagnosed with cancer can be a distressing experience that can have an impact on your everyday life, work, and relationships. It’s normal to feel frightened, uncertain, and even angry. Self-care is necessary for both you and the people close to you. Be honest. Share your feelings and let them know what you need to cope with your condition.
Men diagnosed with prostate cancer can still live their day-to-day life, but often feel worried about the disease progressing. If you have a more progressive form of cancer, you may not feel well enough to go about your normal routine and treatments can make you feel tired and unwell.
It’s important to focus on your specific situation and what will offer you the best quality of life. Know that you’re not alone and you can ask your doctor about patient associations and social services that can support you and your loved ones. Healthy nutrition and an exercise routine fitted to your personal situation can help manage side effects and offer an emotional outlet as well.
The list below includes example questions to help start a conversation with your health care provider. There may be other relevant questions based on your symptoms, stage, and medical history that are not listed here.
At Janssen, we are deeply dedicated to addressing and providing solutions to the most urgent unmet medical needs of our times by introducing pioneering approaches which aim to make cancer not only manageable but ultimately a curable disease.
We put our best efforts towards this mission, and while we keep our eyes on the finish line, we also celebrate the small, everyday victories over cancer. We are committed to raising awareness and engaging more people in conversation about prostate cancer, because effective early detection is the key to reducing the mortality rate of prostate cancer, which is another small victory over cancer.
This website is developed exclusively by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. Please note that the patient advocacy groups, and external sources listed below are an additional and independent source of information you might find useful. These groups and sources were not involved in the creation of this website and do not endorse its content in any way.
A European advocacy movement for men with prostate cancer, representing 27 national patients’ groups.
The Prostate Cancer Units Network is an international network of clinical units dedicated to diagnosing and treating prostate cancer.
#EuCanBeatCancer is a campaign started by the EPP Group in the European Parliament that wants better cooperation between European research centres and to make sure the same quality care is available across Europe.