Prostate Cancer General Facts

Positioned under the bladder and anterior from the rectum, surrounding the urethra, the prostate is a gland of the male reproductive system that is of the size of a walnut. With age it tends to grow in size and possibly leading to the narrowing of the urethra thereby restricting the flow of urine.

Prostate cancer appears when some prostate cells lose normal control of growth and division due to several unknown reasons. Once the cancer starts to grow faster or even moves to other parts of the body, it can become very dangerous. Although the tumor in the prostate usually tends to progress slowly, it can become deadly if the tumors grow outside the gland. Diagnosing prostate cancer in the early stages can lead to a successful cure. Prostate cancer may appear at any age, but it occurs mostly post 40 years and affects 2 in 3 men after the age of 70. Prostate cancer is known to be one of the main causes for death in men.

Symptoms and causes

The risk factors for prostate cancer are ethnicity, diet, genetic hereditary and age. Prostate cancer usually affects older men and it tends to occur more often when there is a history of prostate cancer in the family. Being of African ethnicity puts a person in a higher risk category than all the other ethnicities. The experts are uncertain about the exact causes of prostate cancer, but they all agree that diet can contribute significantly. A diet consisting large quantities of fat, especially animal fat and red meat increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. Another hidden factor that might connect the risk of a high fat diet to prostate cancer is argued to be related to hormones. There have been no connections established in between prostate cancer and a healthy sexual life, vasectomy, masturbation, alcohol consumption or smoking, circumcision, infertility or other benign affections of the prostate. However there are few symptoms associated with the early stages of prostate cancer, some of the warning signs might include the following:

  • Difficulty in starting and stopping urine flow
  • Frequent need to urinate, especially at night time
  • Pain or a burn sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or sperm. Among the symptoms that accompany more advanced stages of cancer are pain in the pelvic area and loss of appetite and weight

Investigation and diagnosis

The first of the tests that need to be performed to diagnose prostate cancer are – digital rectal exam to determine the size and consistency of the gland and a blood test called PSA – Prostate Specific Antigen.

A small amount of PSA is generally found in blood and if the tests results show a high PSA number it can be an indication of cancer cells in the prostate. Post the initial screening, the doctor will decide whether more tests are required. A prostate biopsy may be the next step as a diagnosis can only be confirmed after microscopic examination.

Treatment and prevention

Don’t worry! The treatment options for men with prostate cancer are nowadays very promising. There is a wide array of methods to treat prostate cancer, depending on a few factors:

  • Age and life span of the patient; Stage of prostate cancer; Other health conditions like cardiovascular diseases; Patient’s interest in coping with the side effects of certain treatment options that can attract major changes on the patient’s lifestyle.

Treatment options

  • Active surveillance: it is an option for older patients and with a slow developing prostate cancer. The chances are that, considering their short life expectation, the cancer may not be affecting them. However with watchful waiting, PSA levels should be constantly monitored and digital rectal examinations to check the size of the prostate will be required, at intervals determined by a doctor.
  • Radiotherapy: there are two methods in this case.
    1. External radiation therapy- the prostate is subject to x-rays emitted by a machine outside the patient’s body.
    2. Brachytherapy- small radioactive seeds are implanted into and around the prostate gland to minimize the effect the x-rays have on the surrounding body organs.
  • Hormonal Therapy: its purpose is to cut the supply of testosterone that determines the growth & spread of cancer cells.
  • Cryotherapy: freezing cancer cells in the prostate with liquid nitrogen.
  • Surgery: this is recommended for younger patients with general good health, it is an excellent treatment strategy if the tumor is only in the prostate and hasn’t yet invaded surrounding areas. The procedure is called Radical Retropubic Prostatectomy; which is the surgical removal of the prostate gland.