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The Prostate
Who is at risk?
Hong Kong Statistics
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Prostate cancer is the third most common cancer among men in Hong Kong. In 2015, more than 1,800* new cases were diagnosed. Men aged 60 or above and those over 50 who are considered to be at high risk should get their prostate checked. Many men experience no noticeable symptoms, while some experience an increased frequency of urination or interrupted flow. These symptoms may be due to an enlarged prostate (which is not life-threatening), or prostate cancer. Given this, it is important that men who are considered to be at risk talk with a doctor about the most suitable test for them. Our experience shows that many men don't get tested, or often ignore minor symptoms, believing their condition is just a symptom of “ageing”.

*Hong Kong Cancer Registry, Hospital Authority, 2015.

The Prostate

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The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut found only in men. It sits just below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the penis to be discharged from the body.

Located near the prostate are the nerves, blood vessels and muscles needed to achieve an erection and to control bladder function.

The prostate produces part of the fluid that makes up semen. It normally increases in size as men get older. The growth of the prostate depends on the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is made by the testes.

The growing prostate makes the urethra narrower and this can change urination patterns. This increase in size is called benign prostate enlargement, which is not cancerous.

Benign prostate enlargement and late-stage prostate cancer have the following, similar symptoms.

  • The need to urinate more often, especially at night

  • An urgent need to urinate
  • Difficulty starting to urinate, a weak stream, and/or an interrupted stream
  • Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
  • Urine leakage after going to the toilet
  • Blood in the urine

Early-stage prostate cancer usually has no early symptoms. If you have any of the above symptoms, please consult your doctor. Remember, benign prostate enlargement can usually be treated easily.

Note: Many symptoms of benign prostate enlargement are similar to those found in prostate cancer, but they are not related. Having benign prostate enlargement does not automatically increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Causes of Prostate Cancer

The causes of prostate cancer are unknown. It develops when the cells in the prostate gland grow more quickly than in a normal prostate, forming a malignant lump or tumour.

Most prostate cancers grow more slowly than other types of cancer.

Early (or localised) prostate cancer is a growth that has not spread beyond the prostate. In some cases, the cancer may spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones and lymph nodes. This is called advanced prostate cancer.

The chance of developing prostate cancer increases:

  • As you get older. More than two-thirds (70%) of all new prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65

  • If your father, brother or son has had prostate cancer

Early prostate cancer rarely has symptoms. This is because the cancer is not large enough to put pressure on the urethra.

If the cancer grows and spreads beyond the prostate (advanced prostate cancer), it may cause the following problems:

          • Having to rush to the toilet on a regular basis to urinate
          • Difficulty in urinating, having a weak stream of urine or an interrupted flow
          • A painful or burning sensation when urinating
          • Urinating often, especially at night
          • Blood in the urine
          • Urine leakage
          • Frequent pain in the lower back, hips and upper thighs

Note: These symptoms are common to many conditions and may not be advanced prostate cancer. For peace of mind or to ensure early detection, please consult your doctor about screening and assessment.

Who is at risk?

Knowing the risk factors for prostate cancer can help you determine if and when you want to begin prostate cancer screening. The main risk factors include:

  • Age: After the age of 65, your chance of having prostate cancer significantly increases.

  • Family history: If your father, brother or son has prostate cancer, your risk of developing the disease is greater than that of the average man.
  • Diet: A high-fat diet and obesity may increase your risk of prostate cancer. One theory is that fat increases production of the hormone testosterone, which may promote the development of prostate cancer cells.
  • High testosterone levels: Because testosterone naturally stimulates the growth of the prostate gland, men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men who have lower levels of testosterone. Also, doctors are concerned that testosterone therapy might fuel the growth of prostate cancer that is already present. Long-term testosterone treatment also may cause prostate gland enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
Hong Kong Statistics
  • Prostate cancer was the third most common cancer among men in Hong Kong in 2015 (Hong Kong Cancer Registry’s most recent available data) with 1,831 new prostate cases that year.
  • Over the past 20 years, the total number of new prostate cancer cases has seen a more than six-fold increase (267 cases in 1994 vs. 1,831 cases in 2015).
  • There is a 1 in 30 lifetime risk of having prostate cancer before the age of 75.

Source: Hong Kong Cancer Registry, Hospital Authority