Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, the gland that produces some of the fluid in semen and plays a role in urine control in men.
Here are some key points about the prostate cancer.
The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
It is treatable if diagnosed early, before it spreads.
If symptoms appear, they include problems with urination.
Regular screening is the best way to detect it in good time.
There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. However, if symptoms do appear, they usually involve one or more of the following:
frequent urges to urinate, including at night
difficulty commencing and maintaining urination
blood in the urine
painful urination and, less commonly, ejaculation
difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection may be difficult
Advanced prostate cancer can involve the following symptoms:
bone pain, often in the spine, femur, pelvis, or ribs
If the cancer spreads to the spine and compresses the spinal cord, there may be:
Treatment is different for early and advanced prostate cancers.
Early stage prostate cancer
If the cancer is small and localized, it is usually managed by one of the following treatments:
Watchful waiting or monitoring: PSA blood levels are regularly checked, but there is no immediate action. The risk of side-effects sometimes outweighs the need for immediate treatment for this slow-developing cancer.
Radical prostatectomy: The prostate is surgically removed. Traditional surgery requires a hospital stay of up to 10 days, with a recovery time of up to 3 months. Robotic keyhole surgery involves a shorter hospitalization and recovery period, but it can be more expensive. Patients should speak to their insurer about coverage.
Brachytherapy: Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate to deliver targeted radiation treatment.
Con formal radiation therapy: Radiation beams are shaped so that the region where they overlap is as close to the same shape as the organ or region that requires treatment. This minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Beams with variable intensity are used. This is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.
In the early stages, patients may receive radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for 4 to 6 months.
Treatment recommendations depend on individual cases. The patient should discuss all available options with their urologist or oncologist.
Advanced prostate cancer
Advanced cancer is more aggressive and will have spread further throughout the body.
Chemotherapy may be recommended, as it can kill cancer cells around the body.
Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), or androgen suppression therapy, is a hormone treatment that reduces the effect of androgen. Androgens are male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. ADT can slow down and even stop cancer growth by reducing androgen levels.
The patient will likely need long-term hormone therapy.
Even if the hormone therapy stops working after a while, there may be other options. Participation in clinical trials is one option that a patient may wish to discuss with the doctor.
Radical prostatectomy is not currently an option for advanced cases, as it does not treat the cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
What causes prostate cancer?
The prostate is a walnut-sized exocrine gland. This means that its fluids and secretions are intended for use outside of the body.
The prostate produces the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm on their journey to fuse with a female ovum, or egg, and produce human life. The prostate contracts and forces these fluids out during orgasm.
The protein excreted by the prostate, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), helps semen retain its liquid state. An excess of this protein in the blood is one of the first signs of prostate cancer.
The urethra is tube through which sperm and urine exit the body. It also passes through the prostate.
As such, the prostate is also responsible for urine control. It can tighten and restrict the flow of urine through the urethra using thousands of tiny muscle fibers.