Prostate cancer survival rate at 98pc if it is detected early
Gay Byrne is one of around 3,400 men who have been told they have prostate cancer in Ireland this year, and depending on the stage it is detected, the prognosis can be very good.
It has one of the best survival rates of all cancers and there are currently 26,000 men who are cured or living with the disease here.
The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis found only in men and the chances of developing cancer increase after the age of 50.
The most common method of finding out if a man has prostate cancer involves a blood test, a physical examination of the prostate and a biopsy. The blood test, known as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, measures the level of PSA and may help detect early prostate cancer.
PSA can also be raised due to a large non-cancerous growth of the prostate (BPH) or a urinary tract infection.
If detected early, survival rates are as high as 98pc; but this falls to 26pc if the cancer is discovered later.
If the cancer is at an early stage doctors opt for "watchful waiting" or "active surveillance" where there is no treatment but careful monitoring. Treatments include surgically removing the prostate, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.
Some cases are only diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer has spread.
If it spreads to the bones the treatment is focused on prolonging life and relieving symptoms. It is one of the cancers which has benefited from newer treatments, such as high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) or cryotherapy.
Dr Jerome Coffey, director of the National Cancer Control Programme, recently announced that around 40pc of the men who are currently referred to the HSE-run rapid-access prostate cancer clinics are diagnosed with the disease.
For those men who are diagnosed, their treatment options are discussed and considered by an expert multi-disciplinary team to ensure that the patient is given all the options and all the information on the best approach to be taken, he said.
David Galvin, a consultant urologist in St Vincent's Hospital and the Mater, said: "In Ireland, we know very little about how the treatments for prostate cancer affect our patients. There is a real deficit of data nationally."
He is now the principal investigator with IPCOR - Irish Prostate Cancer Outcomes Research - which involves feedback from patients to allow doctors assess what treatments work and which treatments patients prefer.
"IPCOR will also analyse how a patient's address affects their access to high-quality care.
"We want to ensure that all patients regardless of income or location have equal access to high-quality care, and IPCOR will collect the data to demonstrate this nationally," he said.
Men are urged not to ignore symptoms and there has been particular emphasis on men's health in November which has been christened 'Movember'.
The fundraising drive has been a huge success in recent years.
Prostate cancer does not normally cause symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra.
This normally results in problems associated with urination. Symptoms can include a need to urinate more frequently and feeling the bladder has not emptied fully.
Symptoms that the cancer may have spread include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles and unexplained weight loss.