Prostate cancer in the UK is the most common form of cancer found amongst men, with 40,000 new diagnoses every year and it is the second most common form of cancer deaths in men, with it claiming 10,000 lives a year.
It has affected men of all ages and statures including Sir Ian McKellan, Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller and even has a month which is entirely dedicated to making more people aware of the cancer. But what are the symptoms and treatments available? When does your treatment become negligent and is it possible for you to make a medical negligence claim if so?
Every man has a prostate but a lot don’t actually know what it does, in fact Prostate Cancer UK did a survey were 70% of men over 45 didn’t actually know what the prostate was used for or the symptoms of cancer. The prostate is located between the bladder and the penis which produces fluid that forms part of semen and protects it.
The causes for prostate cancer to this day are still unknown, however, it’s more common in men over 50 and those of African or Afro-Caribbean decent. 90% of prostate cancers are called ‘Adenocarcinoma’ which is a cancer that grows relatively slowly and does not spread. However, the final 10% consist of rarer prostate cancers which include:
- Ductal adenocarcinoma
- Sarcomas and sarcomatoid cancers
- Small cell cancer
- Squamous cell cancer
- Transitional cell cancer
As for symptoms, there are a number that should be looked out for. Prostate cancer in the early stages has little, if no symptoms but later on the following symptoms could start to occur:
- Difficulty passing urine.
- A need to pass urine suddenly, frequently and in the night.
- Blood in your urine or semen.
- Pain when passing urine.
- Difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
As for the diagnosis of prostate cancer, there’s no single test that can directly diagnose it, but the following are used regularly:
- A biopsy of your prostate.
- A blood test that checks the level of a particular protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
- Physical examination of your prostate.
The treatment of the prostate cancer will depend entirely on the type of cancer, the patients age and health. The treatments can include:
- Monitoring, which is when the doctor will simply keep the cancer under review and only provide treatment if it gets any worse.
- Surgery which can include a radical prostatectomy which removes the prostate gland.
- Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), a surgery which includes inserting a metal wire into the urethra to relieve symptoms.
- Radiotherapy which kills cancerous cells.
- Hormone therapy which is normally paired alongside radiotherapy as it slows the growth of the cancer cells and helps manage any symptoms.
- Ultrasound, which can be used to destroy any cells by using heat from high-intensity ultrasound energy (HIFU).
When can medical negligence occur?
The patient can be neglected either before or after they have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. If medical negligence has occurred in diagnosis, the following could happen:
- The symptoms of prostate cancer can be recognised as something less severe such as symptoms relating to urinary difficulty as it generally common in older men. This can mean that necessary investigations won’t occur and therefore the cancer can be missed.
- Despite PSA being an option for diagnosing cancer, it’s not routinely undertaken due to the reliability issues. A raise in PSA can indicate prostate cancer and other common conditions such as a urinary track infection. Therefore, it’s possible that the cancer can be missed if mistaken for other conditions during this test.
- Finally, it can be missed if the doctor fails to appropriately perform a digital rectal examination or fails to interpret the results properly from the PSA test.
- Prostate cancer is normally monitored and treatment is given when there are signs that it has gotten worse. However, if this is not done sufficiently or appropriately, then it can have devastating consequences and allow the cancer to grow and spread. Also, the decision to not treat the cancer itself is seen as neglect.
- The blood test can help diagnose for prostate cancer, however it cannot detect how advanced the cancer is and whether or not it’s life-threatening. This can therefore result in a number of unnecessary tests and insufficient treatments, which may be neglect.
- Having surgery, no matter the severity always carries a risk, but some mistakes can cause more trouble for the patient and can be neglect. This could include removing too much or too little of an area which causes injuries to other organs.
- Radiotherapy and ultrasound treatment is designed to kill any cancerous cells, however, excessive doses or treatment to unaffected areas can cause significant injury.