Skip to content

Prostate Cancer Treatment and Symptoms: Early Screening Guide

05 Jun 2024

Prostate Cancer NZ

Effectively treating prostate cancer with early screening

Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in New Zealand affecting roughly 4,000 men a year? In fact, more than 700 men die of prostate cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer.

However, research from nib found that among those surveyed who were eligible for publicly funded screenings in New Zealand (males 50-70 years), six in 10 (60%) are not up to date or have never received a prostate cancer check.

In the early stages, prostate cancer might not produce any symptoms, which can lead to it going unchecked. A visit to your GP at least once a year for a check up can help avoid late detection.

Anyone with a prostate can get prostate cancer – including transgender women, male-assigned non-binary people or intersex people - so it’s important to keep up with your proactive checks.

What is prostate cancer and what causes it?

The prostate is a walnut shaped gland that produces seminal fluid in men. Prostate cancer is when abnormal cells develop in the gland. The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, but it has been linked to testosterone and other male hormones.

Most prostate cancers grow slowly and are generally confined to the gland itself, and some only need minimal treatment or even none at all. However, other types of prostate cancer can be very aggressive and spread fast. That’s why it’s vital that prostate cancer is identified early so it can be treated properly.

Those with a family history of prostate cancer and over the age of 50 years old may be at higher risk.

What are the symptoms?

Once prostate cancer becomes more advanced, signs and symptoms can begin to develop. Here is what to look out for:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • difficulty urinating
  • frequent or sudden urge to urinate, especially at night
  • weaker urine stream
  • blood in the urine or semen - this should never be ignored
  • bone pain
  • pain in lower back, upper thighs or hips
  • weight loss

Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms persistently.

What treatments are available?

There are a wide range of treatment options for prostate cancer from active surveillance to radiation and surgery. However, there are more treatment options if it’s caught before symptoms emerge.

As well as the more well-known treatments of chemotherapy and radiation, some of the less well known treatments include cryotherapy or ablative treatments that use extreme heat and cold to attack the cancerous tissues. This is generally used as an alternative to surgery and radiation. This kind of treatment can actually be targeted to treat the whole prostate or just part of it. Targeting just part of the prostate can have less side effects but it is not clear whether it is effective long term.

Hormone therapy is another treatment used for prostate cancer. By reducing androgens like testosterone, it can reduce the growth of cancer cells. There are several different kinds of hormone therapy available.

nib’s Cancer Care Programme

The nib Cancer Care Programme aims to empower eligible members and their carers as they navigate the complexities of cancer treatment and recovery.

At the heart of the Cancer Care programme lies a commitment to offering personalised, one-on-one support to eligible members with a diagnosis of cancer. Whether it's providing education on treatment options, directing them to resources, or simply lending a listening ear, nib's dedicated team and experienced Wellness Coaches are there every step of the way.