Prostate cancer affects millions of men every year and the risk of developing it increases with age. It is the most common cancer affecting men and is the second leading cause of cancer death. The development of prostate cancer slowly develops over time and can begin with mild urinary symptoms that can be mistaken as being brought about by old age. The condition can be very treatable but the prognosis is highly improved by early recognition, screening, and diagnosis, all of which we will be looking into further.
What is the Prostate Gland?
The prostate gland is an organ that is part of the reproductive system in males. It is normally small, approximately the size of a walnut, and is located below the bladder surrounding a portion of the urinary tract. The main function of the prostate is to produce seminal fluid that is used to nourish and aid in the transport of sperm through the reproductive system. The prostate gland is found to increase in size with increasing age, however, its rate of growth can be affected by both benign and cancerous conditions.
What are the symptoms?
As mentioned earlier, the location of the prostate is just beneath the bladder and has a close relationship to the urethra before it exits the penis. Because of this, in conditions where there is excessive growth of the prostate gland such as in Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and Prostate Cancer, the prostate could obstruct the flow of the urine passing along the urethra. Most symptoms would then present as problems urinating such as:
- · Difficulty initiating urination
- · Decreased urine flow
- · Pain during urination
- · Dribbling of urine
- · Feeling of incomplete voiding after just having urinated
- · Pelvic pain
What is Prostate Cancer?
Also as previously discussed, there is a normal enlargement of the prostate gland as men get older. However, there are two well-studied conditions wherein there is excessive growth within the cells of the prostate leading to uncontrolled enlargement of the gland. The first of these conditions is known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). This occurs when the growth of the regular cells of the prostate becomes too rapid causing enlargement of the prostate. Unlike that of cancer, these cells are not malignant and are not capable of invading other organs. Prostate Cancer, on the other hand, occurs when malignant cells begin to replace and invade the normal cells of the prostate gland. These cancer cells divide very rapidly and begin to growth and an uncontrolled pace leading to enlargement of the gland. The grave concern about these cells is that they are able to metastases and spread to other organs beyond the prostate. Once these cancer cells spread to other body parts, it becomes more difficult to treat and therapeutic options can become limited.
What are the risk factors for developing Prostate Cancer?
As with most cancers, one specific factor cannot be used to determine the odds of developing the condition. It is a complicated interplay between genetics, environment, and biophysical elements. A few risk factors that have been identified that could be associated with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer are: Age, Family History, and Obesity
How do I know if I have Prostate Cancer?
According to the American guidelines, prostate cancer screening should begin starting the age of 45 and be done yearly. Once reaching the age of 55, it is then recommended to have biennial screenings. This screening typically involves a physical exam wherein a healthcare physician examines the prostate. This is done by doing a digital exam wherein the physician will place their fingers through the anus and position it in a way that they are able to palpate and feel the prostate. They will be trying to examine the size, texture, and feel for any irregularities. In other cases, a physician may also request a blood test known as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). This measures a specific antigen in the blood that is specific to the prostate. The levels of this test can be used to differentiate between BPH and Prostate Cancer. Additional tests may also include ultrasound, CT-Scan, or MRI, depending on the concerns that the physician may have.
What is the treatment for Prostate Cancer?
There are several options of treatment for prostate cancer and the choice of which is influenced by many parameters. A physician will take into consideration such factors as the age of the patient, the size of the prostate, the stage of cancer upon being diagnosed, and the presence of metastasis to other organs. The management options could then range from surgery (Radical Prostatectomy), the use of chemotherapeutic agents, and in more advanced conditions, the need for radiotherapy.
With the current advances in medical understanding of Prostate Cancer, there are now several life-saving options that are available. The most important thing to do is to be able to screen and diagnose the condition early. This then puts emphasis that, as men grow older, they should be more aware of the need to undergo yearly screening tests. Consult your physician early and inquire if you are in need of prostate cancer screening.