Prostate cancer is known as one of the most common cancers that affect men. This cancer type begins when the healthy cells in the prostate grow out of control without signals and form a tumor. The prostate is a known gland found in the male reproductive system. It is a small walnut-looking gland situated below your penis and in front of your rectum.
As a man, your prostate gains increment in size as you grow. However, the primary function of your prostate gland is to help with the secretion or production of seminal fluid. The seminal fluid is the liquid in the semen that helps protect, support, and transport the sperm cells.
How common is this cancer?
Studies revealed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology show prostate cancer remains the second most popular cause of cancer-related death in men in the United States. Studies suggest that we might record about 34,130 deaths from prostate cancer this year. In addition, this type of cancer grows slowly. The slow features may hinder the rapid spread of this type of cancer to other parts of the body.
Usually, when a spread to the other body part is noticed, it is advisable to speak with your doctor, so they carefully manage your health condition and provide you with the best treatment available. However, receiving a cancer diagnosis from your oncologist is not a death sentence. You can still live a quality life for many years.
Studies at the America Cancer Society suggest that about one man in every forty-one diagnosed with prostate cancer might die. However, there are countless available treatment options that your doctor can explore with you. Sticking to your healthcare team’s advice may contribute to living a quality life afterward.
Types of Prostate cancer
Researchers reveal that the most common prostate cancer type is adenocarcinomas (malignant tumors). Various cancers can also begin in the prostate, but they occur rarely. These include:
- Transitional cell carcinoma
- Small cell carcinoma
- Neuroendocrine tumor
Since this type of cancer grows slowly and does not spread quickly, there is the possibility you don’t get a diagnosis of prostate cancer on time from your doctor.
Key signs and symptoms
Just like other types of cancer, prostate cancer does not show any signs and symptoms in its early stage. However, when it grows to a more advanced stage, you may notice some symptoms such as:
- Experiencing difficulty in urinating
- Traces of blood in your urine
- Blood traces in your semen
- Loss of weight
- The onset of erectile dysfunction
- Experiencing pain in your bone
- Painful ejaculation
- Inconsistent urine flow
- Frequent urge to urinate, especially in night.
In addition, if you notice any of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor immediately for proper screening and diagnosis. Your doctor will help you find out what the problem may be.
What is a Prostate-Specific antigen?
The cells in your prostate gland help produce a particular protein known as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This PSA moves into your bloodstream. Furthermore, findings indicate nothing like “normal PSA” for a person. But doctors have found this protein secretion to be on the high side than it should be in people with prostate cancer. To determine your PSA level, you will require a blood test. A certified laboratory technologist will carry out this PSA test.
In addition, the presence of a benign tumor (noncancerous tumor) may also result in a high PSA level for a person. If you have prostatitis (prostate swelling), this condition can also make your PSA level rise. Some reports also indicate that ejaculation may increase your PSA level temporarily. However, to avoid a false-high PSA level test result, your doctor will advise you to stay away from sexual intercourse before the test.
What can cause prostate cancer?
Findings indicate that the causes of prostate cancer are unknown yet. But researchers attach it to the notion that it has “been proven” that all cancers begin from abnormally grown cells in the body. The occurrence of changes in the DNA of normal prostate may lead to prostate cancer. Your DNA is a chemical in your body cells that make up your gene.
Typically, these genes give instructions to your body cells on how they should function. But when tumors occur in your prostate, there may be the presence of DNA mutation in your prostate cells. These DNA changes can result in cells growing abnormally.
Furthermore, even though our genes help in different activities to complete our well-being, we cannot make them ourselves. We often inherit genes from our parents. But gene mutations that cause cancer or benign tumors can be inherited or acquired as we grow. Let’s have a quick brief on inherited and acquired gene mutations.
Inherited gene mutation
Some gene changes are found in the body’s cells and can be transferred from one generation to another. Experts say that this type of gene mutation amounts to 10 percent of prostate cancer. The types of cancers concerning these inherited genes are hereditary cancer. Some of these genes that can be linked to hereditary cancer are;
- BRCA 1 and BRCA 2: These are tumor suppressor genes. They repair errors in your body cell’s DNA. They also make cells die if a mistake cannot be controlled or corrected. But, when there are gene changes to these tumor suppressor genes, it may result in prostate cancer
- CHEK 2, ATM, and PALB 2: Changes in these genes can also lead to prostate cancer.
- RNASEL: This tumor suppressor gene helps cells die when something goes wrong in them. When you inherit mutations in this type of gene, it may let the abnormally grown cells stay alive and live longer.
Gene mutation that you can acquire
These kinds of gene changes cannot be passed to generations. Some genes are capable of mutating while you grow. When a body cell wants to undergo division, it must copy its DNA. Sometimes, errors may occur during this process, leaving the faulty DNA in the new cell. These changes often occur due to unhealthy lifestyles, diets, and hormone levels. When your hormone, such as testosterone, gets high, it may contribute to the risk of prostate cancer.
What are the risk factors of prostate cancer?
Researchers identify some factors that may increase your risk of prostate cancer. Although these factors often serve as pointers to cancer development, they do not directly cause cancer themselves. However, some people with known risk factors may not develop cancer. Likewise, some with no or minor risk factors still had cancer. Once you are aware of your risk factor, you should speak with your doctor so they can help you with informed lifestyle and healthcare decisions.
Let’s have a glance at a few of the risk factors, which are;
- Ethnicity: Prostate cancer is more common among Africa American men and other men of African origin. Prostate cancer rarely occurs in men of Asian American band Hispanic Latino men than non-Hispanic whites.
- Age: As you grow, your risk of prostate cancer may increase. But it is seen more in men (older adults) of 65 years and above. Studies indicate that there is an occurrence of prostate cancer among 6 in every ten men 65 years and above.
- Geographical location: If you live in North America and Northern Europe, you may be more likely to develop prostate cancer. However, researchers suggest that prostate cancer is rising among Asians living in urban areas like Hong Kong. European cities such as Moscow etc.
- Family history: If your father or relative that you are related to by blood and have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, this may double your own risk. However, some men do not have a family history of prostate cancer but still develop it.
- Your diet: It has not been proven that nutrition choices can directly cause cancer. But some recent studies suggest that there may be a connection.
- Unhealthy lifestyle: It has not been proven that smoking can lead to prostate cancer. But smoking has been one of the risk factors for lung cancer. However, researchers suggest that there may be little chance of prostate cancer development if you smoke.
- Exposure to chemicals: Certain chemicals such as Agent Orange can lead to prostate cancer. This chemical was used in during the Vietnam war. Perhaps you have a history of exposure to this chemical; talk with your doctor about possible treatment methods.
Prevention of prostate cancer
Many factors may increase the chances of developing cancer. However, as researchers identify these factors, they continue to seek ways to prevent them. You might be able to lower your risk of developing prostate factors if you don’t disregard your doctor’s advice. But, it is not stated if there is a proven way to prevent cancer completely.
As you grow, your prostate enlarges, and sometimes, this may lead to a condition known as benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). This condition is when there is a blockage of the urethra. However, its linkage to prostate cancer is unknown yet. The two significant ways of cancer prevention are;
Prevention with chemotherapy
Some classes of drugs, such as 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, are required. Your doctor may use these drugs to treat BPH. It will help to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. You may speak with your doctor about the possible side effects of using the chemotherapy prevention method.
Prevention through dietary change
Although, no research has confidently associated dietary patterns with cancer development risk. But, there may be some connections, according to some researchers. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and legumes such as beans may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Speak with your doctor to make a well-informed decision on your dietary pattern.
Finally, make sure you undergo regular exercise. You don’t need to undergo rigorous exercise. But, be consistent as it can help if you shed excess weight.
Screening and diagnosis of prostate cancer
There are different tests and screenings that your health team will carry out to determine cancerous cells. For instance, your doctor can perform an imaging test to determine if cancer has spread to the other part of your body. However, doctors can uniquely determine that area of the body with this cancerous cell by conducting a biopsy. Your doctor will collect a sample of tissues from your body for testing in the laboratory.
Furthermore, aside from the PSA level test mentioned earlier in this post, your doctor may use Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) to search for the faulty part of the prostate with their finger. However, DRE is unreliable as it requires doctors’ expertise, and not all doctors can do this perfectly.
In addition, a biomarker test is another screening method. A biomarker is a substance found in urine, blood, and body tissues of someone with cancer. Biomarker tests include 4k score, which can tell if there is a chance someone has high-risk prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer treatment
In this section, we will see some treatment types for prostate cancer. Cancer is managed by a health team consisting of different health practitioners such as medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, nurses, and therapists. The standard treatment options include;
- Active surveillance – This approach involves your doctor actively monitoring the cancer growth. Your health team will carry out several screenings, scans, and biopsies. Active surveillance is an approach that is perfect when prostate cancer has not spread away from the prostate. Researchers suggest that you do a PSA test every 3 to 6 months, DRE once a year at minimum, and a prostate biopsy in 6 to 12 months.
- Watchful waiting – This method is similar to active surveillance. It is an option that may be preferable for older adults and those with life-threatening illnesses. With watchful waiting, PSA test, DRE test, and biopsy do not need to be frequent as they focus more on symptom management.
- Radical prostatectomy – This approach removes the prostate and the seminal vesicles with surgery. This surgical procedure may come with its own risk that affects your sexual function. However, your surgeon might recommend nerve-sparing surgery to avoid the possible risk of sexual dysfunction. The nerve-sparing surgery helps prevent nerves damage that allows erection and orgasm. Your doctor may recommend drugs, penile implants, or injections to satisfy your sexual activeness.
- Robotic or Laparoscopic prostatectomy – This surgical method involves the usage of a camera and instrument. Your doctor will insert this instrument into your abdomen through a small cut on your stomach. The procedure is less painful and does not cause much bleeding. Talk with your doctor to know if this procedure may be appropriate for you.
- Brachytherapy – This procedure is also known as internal radiation therapy. Your radiation oncologist will insert a radioactive seed into your prostate. These seeds will produce radiation around the prostate area to preserve healthy tissues.
- Systemic therapy – This treatment method includes; chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and androgen deprivation hormone therapy. Your doctor might recommend this type of treatment if the cancerous cell has spread out of your prostate.
- External beam radiation – Your radiation oncologist will produce an intense x-ray directly on the tumor with the aid of a machine in this approach.
Your take home
Prostate cancer grows slowly and can stay in your prostate gland for years. You should keep your doctor in the know if you notice any strange changes in your body. Like some types of cancer, prostate cancer is also present in stages. Stage I and II (early stage) involve the cancerous cell’s slow growth process and takes decades to show signs. Stage III and IV indicate the outgrown cells, and the cancerous cells might have spread to other parts of the body. However, if you see or feel any of the symptoms we mentioned earlier in this post, see your doctor immediately to know your treatment options.