Everything You Need To Know About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a malignant condition that occurs sporadically, affecting thousands of men each year.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 60% of all prostate cancer cases occur in patients over 60 years old.
The prostate function is to produce and secrete essential substances to make up the semen. Unfortunately, some of the cells that compose the prostate tissue may go haywire to form a tumor that grows uncontrollably.
The prevalence of prostate cancer is extremely high, putting this disease as the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men worldwide.
What causes prostate cancer?
Prostate tumors have several types that range in frequency and severity. Some of these tumors are completely benign, which means that the cells do not invade surrounding tissues.
The other type of prostate tumors is the malignant type, which leads to the destruction of juxtaposing tissue, and in some cases, the cancerous cells travel via the bloodstream to reach other organs, such as the lungs, bones, and brain.
Like most cancers, we do not exactly know what causes prostate cancer, but there are some agreed-upon risk factors, including:
Age – prostate cancer is more prevalent in older age groups.
Family history – having a family member diagnosed with prostate cancer increases your risk of this disease.
Ethnicity and race – research shows that African Americans are more susceptible to developing prostate cancer than other races.
Obesity – while it is firmly documented as a risk factor, scientists do not fully understand the underlying mechanism.
Genetic mutations – certain genetic mutations (e.g., P53 mutation) increase the risk of many cancer types, including prostate cancer.
Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer
The signs and symptoms of prostate cancer are diverse, but for the most part, they affect the genitourinary tract.
While some of the symptoms may resemble prostate cancer, they could be the result of other benign conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is an extremely common condition in males.
Due to the location of the prostate, it can press on surrounding organs when the tumor grows large enough.
The two main structures that get affected by this enlargement are the urethra and bladder, which both serve to pass the urine produced by the kidneys.
Therefore, patients often experience the following urinary symptoms:
- Pollakiuria (frequent urination)
- The urgency to go to the bathroom
- Slower stream of urine
Typically, these are the first signs that something’s wrong in the prostate. If you experience these symptoms for some time, you might consider contacting your primary care physician.
Diagnosis of prostate cancer
The definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer involves several steps.
When your physician suspects prostate cancer, he/she will perform a digital rectal examination (DRE) that involves palpating the prostate with two fingers from the rectal canal.
This palpation allows the doctor to search for malignant features of the lump, such as irregular borders, hardness, and attachment to surrounding tissues.
Once this exam is performed, your doctor will order one or more of the following tests:
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
- Prostate biopsy
- Imaging tests (e.g., CT scan, MRI)
The most accurate test among these is the prostate biopsy; however, it is also the most invasive.
The biopsy gets ordered when there is a high suspicion of prostate cancer supported by DRE and PSA findings.
Treatment of prostate cancer
The therapeutic approach of prostate cancer is determined on a case-to-case basis.
However, there are four pillars of treatment:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormonal therapy
Each of these entities has specific indications, and oftentimes, physicians use a combination of two or more treatments to eliminate all the cancer cells from the body.
Another important aspect of therapy is the active surveillance of patients, making sure that the tumor is shrinking in size and responding well to therapy.
Prostate cancer is a common disease that takes thousands of lives every year.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the basic concepts of prostate cancer, as well as the diagnostic and therapeutic approaches available.