A Guide For Understanding Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common type of cancer in men, and according to the American Cancer Society, it's estimated that in 2021, there will be over 248,000 new cases. Contrary to popular belief, even though this type of cancer is serious, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer don't die from it. In fact, over 3.1 million men in the US that have received a positive diagnosis are still alive.
If you've been diagnosed with prostate cancer or a close friend or relative has received a positive diagnosis, you probably have many unanswered questions. We have compiled this simple guide to answer the most frequently asked questions.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate, which is a small gland located in a man's lower abdomen. This gland is responsible for producing semen, a fluid that transports sperm during ejaculation and is regulated by the testosterone hormone.
Prostate cancer occurs when there's an abnormal growth of cells, or a tumor starts forming on the prostate.
There are 3 main types of prostate cancer;
- Non-aggressive prostate cancer: this type of cancer is confined to the prostate, grows slowly, and causes no harm. In such situations, it requires minimal supervision. It's also referred to as localized cancer and has the best chances for successful treatment.
- Regional prostate cancer: cancer has already spread outside the prostate but has only impacted the nearby organs like the lymph nodes.
- Aggressive prostate cancer: the abnormal cells are growing rapidly, and cancer is spreading to other areas of the body. It's also referred to as distant prostate cancer.
The prostate cancer survival rate for localized and regional stages is almost 100%, while that of the distant state is only 38%.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
While there is no clear cause of prostate cancer, the instigating factor is usually the abnormal growth of cells. The cells in the prostate start to divide more rapidly than normal and accumulate into a tumor.
In some instances, some of these cells start metastasizing and spread to the surrounding organs.
The most common risk factors for prostate cancer include;
- Ethnicity or race: it's not yet been determined why, but males of African American descent are more likely to develop prostate cancer. The cancer is also highly likely to be aggressive.
- Old age: the risk factor for prostate cancer increases as you age, and it's most common in males over 50 years. According to the PCF (Prostate Cancer Foundation), 1 in 55 men over 50 get diagnosed with this type of cancer.
- Obesity: males with obesity have a high chance of getting prostate cancer compared to their healthy counterparts.
- Family history: men whose families have a history of breast cancer or other types of cancer have a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.
Other risk factors include lifestyle, location (it's highly prevalent in North America), and diet.
What Are the Main Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
In its early stages, prostate cancer has no symptoms. However, when it gets to its distant stage, you may start experiencing symptoms such as;
- Sexual Problems
This is also known as impotence and mostly manifests in the form of erectile dysfunction, where the male is unable to sustain an erection long enough to have sexual intercourse. In some instances, you may also notice blood in your semen.
- Urinary Problems
Urinary problems are usually the most prevalent indication of prostate cancer. Since the prostate surrounds the urethra and is located beneath the bladder when a tumor grows, you may experience problems such as;
- A slow urine stream.
- Blood traces in the urine.
- Frequent urge to urinate.
If the prostate is pressed against your urethra, you may have difficulty passing urine.
- Numbness and Pain
When prostate cancer is in its distant stage, it spreads to the bones, and you may start feeling pain in the chest, back, and pelvis. If it spreads to the spinal cord, you may experience numbness in your bladder and legs.
Can I Prevent Prostate Cancer?
There is no way to prevent prostate cancer. You could, however, lower your risks by:
- Improving your diet: Studies have shown that there is a correlation between diet and cancer. Reduce your fat intake, avoid charred meat, and eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly as this will increase your immune functions and reduce the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
- Maintain a healthy weight because obesity is a risk factor for aggressive prostate cancer.
- Increase your vitamin D intake.
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
- Stay sexually active.
How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
The most effective way of diagnosing prostate cancer is through regular screening. Visit your urologist, and if they determine that screening is the best option, they will likely conduct certain tests, including;
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: this test determines the amount of PSA in your blood. Very high PSA could be a sign of prostate cancer.
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): this is where the urologist inserts their finger up your rectum to check for lumps.
- Prostate biopsy: a small tissue of the prostate gland is examined for cancer cells.
They may also conduct a bone scan, CT scan, and MRI.
How Is Prostate Cancer Treated?
Prostate cancer treatment plans are usually determined by your age, stage of cancer, and health status. The urologist may recommend active surveillance for localized cancer, where you don't receive any treatment but have regular visits with the doctor for constant monitoring.
For aggressive prostate cancer, you may receive treatments such as;
- Hormone therapy
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
In some cases, the urologist may recommend prostatectomy, which is the removal of part or all of your prostate gland.
Talk to a Urologist Today!
The prostate cancer survival rate is very high, especially when it's detected early. If you suspect you have this type of cancer, talk to a urologist immediately. You should also stay on the safe side through regular screening and avoid some risk factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and an unhealthy diet. Schedule an appointment with one of our urologists today for more specific information on prostate cancer.