Cancer of the prostate is the most common type of cancer among American men. It is estimated that one out of every 10 American men will develop prostate cancer before the age of 85. The risk of developing prostate cancer greatly increases with age. It rarely occurs in men younger than 40.
The Function of the Prostrate
The prostate is a male gland normally the size of a walnut. It secretes a milky fluid that is part of the semen needed for ejaculation. The prostate gland lies at the base of the penis, just below the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds the first inch of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. Its location allows a physician to feel through the rectum that part of the gland where most tumors occur.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
The cause of prostate cancer remains unknown. Several factors associated with a higher rate of prostate cancer, however, have been identified. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases as a man ages. A family history of prostate cancer in a brother or a father also doubles one’s chances of getting prostate cancer. There is no convincing evidence to date that diet and/or nutrition play a role in developing prostate cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
In the very early stages of prostate cancer, there usually are no symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they vary according to the size and location of the tumor and are often the same as those for benign prostate conditions. In fact, it is more likely that any of these symptoms would indicate prostate enlargement, known as benign prostatic hypertrophy, infection, or other conditions rather than cancer. Still, any symptom should be checked by a physician. Only a physician conducting the proper tests can determine for sure whether the condition is cancerous or benign. Symptoms of prostate problems include:
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Inability to urinate
- Difficulty in starting or stopping urination
- Need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Blood in the urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Continuing pain in lower back, pelvis, or upper thighs
- Painful ejaculation
- Loss of appetite and weight
Every man over the age of 40 should have a digital rectal examination as part of his regular annual physical checkup. The physician inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to palpate (feel) any irregular or abnormal areas of the prostate. Almost all prostate cancers begin in that part of the prostate gland that can be palpated by rectal examination. In addition, it is recommended that men 50 and over have an annual prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA). If there is a family history (father or brother), screening should begin at age 40. If either digital rectal examination of the prostate-specific blood test is abnormal, further evaluation should be considered.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
Removal of a small tissue sample and its examination under a microscope, a procedure known as a biopsy, is the ONLY way to determine conclusively if a growth is cancerous. The physician will determine the need for this procedure.
Treatment of Prostate Cancer
Removal of the Prostate by Surgery
Surgery can be used to remove cancer from the prostate. If found in its early stages, prostate cancer can be cured by surgery. It is most often done during the cancer’s early stages (Stages A and B), when the prostate cancer is located only within the prostate. Surgery may help prevent further spread of the cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill prostate cancer cells. Because the rays cannot be directed perfectly, they may damage both cancer cells and healthy cells nearby. If the dose of radiation is small and spread over time, however, the healthy cells are able to recover and survive, and the cancer cells eventually die.
Radiation therapy usually is given for prostate cancer that has not spread to distant areas of the body. Like surgery, this therapy works best when the cancer is located in a small area. In early stages of prostate cancer, radiation therapy can cure the disease.
Two types of hormone therapy can be used:
- Surgical removal of the testicles, which make male hormones.
- Drugs that prevent the production or block the action of testosterone and other male
Hormone therapy is medication that is given by injection. This medication helps stop the production of testosterone which will help stop the spread of the cancer and will also aid in shrinking the tumor.
The physician will make the determination as to which treatment best suits you.
Prostate Cancer Awareness
Screening means prevention. By the age of 50, 1 out of 4 men will have some cancerous cells in his prostate. At age 80, the ratio becomes 1 in 2. However, most men outlive their diagnosis. And, in more than two-thirds of men diagnosed with the disease, cancer is confined to the prostate. That’s why it is vital to get screened on a yearly basis.
Please call to schedule your screening (585) 232-2980