Prostate Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Overview

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the prostate, a part of the male reproduction system. Prostate cancer usually grows at a slow rate and it is one of the most common types of cancer in American men.

If the cancer is confined to the prostate gland, it may not cause any serious harm. People may experience very mild symptoms and may not even know that they are with the condition. But in other cases, prostate cancer can be very aggressive and quickly spread to other parts of the body.

If detected early, people with prostate cancer would usually have a better chance of curing the disease. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, the condition usually can’t be cured. However, with proper treatment, symptoms of the disease can be kept under control.

Right now, the exact cause of prostate cancer remains unclear, but experts do find that some risk factors such as age may increase men’s chance of developing prostate cancer.

In the United States, there are as many as 165,000 new cases of prostate cancer each year. It is estimated that 13% American men have prostate cancer during their lifetime. Among all cases of prostate cancer, around 2 to 3 men will die from the condition.

Causes

At present, experts are still working on what exactly causes prostate cancer. Based on current researches and studies, they have found the following factors that may increase your risk of developing prostate cancer:

  • Age. Overall, about 80% of men are diagnosed with prostate cancer after the age of 65. For men who haven’t reached their 40s, they normally have a lower risk of developing the condition.
  • Family history. If a man has a family member who had prostate cancer before, he may be at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer. According to current studies, prostate cancer is very likely to be associated with genetic changes. If a man gets prostate cancer at a younger age, the condition often has something to do family history.
  • Race. African-American men are more prone to develop prostate cancer. Statistics show that African-American men are twice as likely to lose their lives because of prostate cancer than white men.
  • Obesity. If an obese man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, treating the condition may become more difficult.

Apart from the above-mentioned common risk factors, prostate cancer may be also related to other factors such as diet, sexual activity and environmental exposures.

Based on previous studies, it has been found that men who eat a lot of red meat and high-fat dairy products may be at a higher risk of having prostate cancer. Also, exposures to cadmium, Agent Orange, pesticides and smoke may also increase the risk of developing the condition.

As for sexual activity, experts used to think that men who have more sexual activities were more likely to have prostate cancer. But now, new studies show that men with more ejaculations per month may be at a lower risk.

Symptoms

For many men with prostate cancer, the condition may cause no symptoms at all. As cancer progresses, it may cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in semen
  • Blood in urine
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Leg weakness
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Fecal incontinence

According to the severity of prostate cancer, patients may show different symptoms. If you have the above-described symptoms and you are over 65, you should hurry to the hospital to get a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

Given that some cases of prostate cancer can have no symptoms at all, getting an accurate and definite diagnosis can be difficult. Commonly, the doctor makes a diagnosis based on the following test results:

The PSA test is a blood test, aiming at testing the level of prostate-specific antigen. In often cases, people with prostate cancer have a higher PSA level. But given that PSA levels do naturally increase with age and can be affected by other factors such as medications and obesity, this test result is often for doctor’s reference. If a man is with high PSA levels, the doctor will then order other tests to determine whether the man has prostate cancer or not.

In this procedure, the doctor will check for abnormalities of the prostate with their finger. Although the process can be uncomfortable, it is often important to receive this test for confirmation.

  • A biopsy

The doctor may require taking a small piece of prostate tissue to the lab to identify whether cancer cells exist or not. Biopsy is the main method of diagnosing prostate cancer.

  • A Gleason score

After identifying the existence of prostate cancer cells, the doctor may use a Gleason score to determine the severity of the cancer. Based on the spreading situation, the doctor will label the prostate cancer from 2 to 10. The higher the score, the more likely it is that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body.

In the end, the doctor will give out a diagnosis based on the above test results. Accordingly, the doctor will tailor the treatment plan for each and every patient. Usually, if cancer has not spread, people who get an early diagnosis will have a better chance of curing it.

Treatment

In line with different symptoms and stages of prostate cancer, treatment methods may vary. In general, the doctor may recommend the following treatment methods:

Wait-and-see method

If prostate cancer is small in size and confined in the prostate gland, the doctor may take the method of active surveillance. By checking the patient’s PSA blood levels on a regular basis, the doctor will monitor closely cancer’s development in order to take timely response.

Surgery

  • Radical prostatectomy

In his procedure, the doctor will surgically remove the prostate. This surgery will require a hospital stay up to 10 days. People who have this surgery usually need as long as 3 months to fully recover. Now, robotic prostatectomy is also available. It requires a shorter time of recovery but also costs more money.

  • Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP)

This procedure only helps to reduce the symptoms, instead of curing the disease. In a TURP procedure, prostate tissue will be burned away with an electrically activated wire loop.

  • Orchiectomy

This procedure will remove both of the testicles. After this surgical procedure, the patient’s testosterone in the body will drop greatly.

Above all, in order to choose the best treatment method, people with prostate cancer should talk to their doctor first before receiving any treatments.


Keywords: prostate cancer.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.