What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the cancer of the prostate gland in men. Prostate gland creates some of the fluid that is part of the semen. This gland lies below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The size of the prostate changes with age. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut, but can be of a much larger size in older men.
How does prostate cancer occur?
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably. Almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas, i.e. those which develop from the gland cells which produce the prostate fluid that is added to the semen.
Other types of prostate cancer include:
- Small cell carcinomas
- Neuroendocrine tumors (other than small cell carcinomas)
- Transitional cell carcinomas
These types are very rare.
Who is prone to prostate cancer?
Some people are more prone to prostate cancer than others. They include:
- Men who are above 50 years of age
- Men who have a strong family history of cancers, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, or pancreatic cancer. Especially, having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.
- Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products and less fruits and vegetables appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
- Obese men have a higher risk of getting more aggressive prostate cancer, some studies have shown
- Men who chain smoke are at an increased risk of getting prostate cancer
- Men who inherit gene mutations
- Men who have been exposed to certain harmful chemicals and radiation
What are the causes of prostate cancer?
Like all other cancers, the exact cause of prostate cancer isn’t easy to determine. Multiple factors may be involved such as:
- a family history of cancer
- exposure to environmental toxins, like certain chemicals or radiation
- mutations in the DNA, or genetic material, which can lead to the growth of cancerous cells
- a diet which is high in red meat and high-fat dairy products and low in fruits and vegetables
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer? How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
In the early stages of prostate cancer, there are usually no symptoms. If symptoms do appear they include:
- urge to urinate frequently, even at night
- painful urination and, less commonly, ejaculation
- blood in the urine
- difficulty while commencing and maintaining urination
- difficulty in getting and maintaining an erection
The symptoms of advanced prostate cancer include:
- pain in the bones, especially in the spine, femur, pelvis, or ribs
- bone fractures
- leg weakness
- urinary incontinence
- faecal incontinence
If you notice any disturbing symptoms, you need to visit a general practitioner who will carry out a physical examination and enquire about any ongoing medical history. He may ask you to undergo a blood test.
If a routine blood test shows abnormally high PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels, the doctor may suggest further examinations and you may be referred to an oncologist.
Your oncologist may perform tests which include:
- a Digital Rectal Examination (DRE), in which a doctor will manually check for any abnormalities of the prostate
- a biomarker test checking the blood, urine, or body tissues of a person for chemicals which are unique to people suffering from cancer
- a urine test to check for the PCA3 gene only found in prostate cancer cells
- a transrectal ultrasound scan which provides images of the affected region
- a biopsy, which involves the removal small tissues from several areas of the prostate for examination under a microscope
- scans such as bone, CT scan, or MRI scan to see if the cancer has spread
What are the complications of prostate cancer?
The complications of prostate cancer include:
- erectile dysfunction
- urinary incontinence
- faecal incontinence
- metastasis or spread of the cancer cells from one part of the body to other parts of the body
- severe pain
- higher-than-normal levels of calcium in the blood leading to nausea, vomiting, and confusion
- compression of the spinal cord, which can lead to muscle weakness and urinary and faecal incontinence
What is the treatment for prostate cancer?
Depending on the severity of your condition the doctor may prescribe some medicines and observe, wait and monitor if it is in very early stages.
If it is advanced then he may suggest radical prostatectomy in which the prostate is surgically removed, or radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
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