What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer of American men aside from skin cancer and the second deadliest, behind lung cancer. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland, an organ of the male reproductive system located beneath the bladder, grow uncontrollably.
Signs and Symptoms
Early prostate cancer usually shows no symptoms. However, symptoms may include:
- Problems urinating, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Pain in the hips, back, chest or other areas
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
Screening and Diagnostic Tests
Screening occurs before a patient has experienced any symptoms and helps locate cancer at an early stage. If a screening test result is abnormal, diagnostic tests may be needed to rule out prostate cancer. These include:
- During a digital rectal exam (DRE), your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to examine the texture, shape or size of your prostate.
- For a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test blood is drawn and analyzed for PSA, a substance naturally produced by your prostate. If higher-than-normal levels are found, it may indicate prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.
Talking with your doctor
Urologists, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists are the most common physicians who treat cancer. However physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, nutrition specialists, social workers, and other health and hospital professionals may be a part of your treatment team.
Some topics you might consider bringing up with a medical professional include:
- Deciding on a treatment plan
- The length of your recovery time
- The possibility of becoming impotent or sterile
- If you qualify for any clinical trials
Causes of Prostate Cancer
Cancer researchers do not know the exact causes of prostate cancer but they have discovered some factors that may lead to the development of prostate cancer:
- Inherited or acquired gene mutations
- Prostate inflammation
- High cholesterol or triglyceride levels
Risk Factors of Prostate Cancers
Researchers have found several factors that might affect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer. These include:
- Family history
However, most prostate cancer occurs in men without a family history of it.
Prevention of Prostate Cancer
Research is ongoing for how to prevent prostate cancer. A few ways that may reduce your chances include:
- Eating fewer calories
- Reducing red meat and dairy from your diet
- Adding fish to your diet
- Smoking cessation
- Reducing stress and depression
Stages of Prostate Cancer
- Stage I: Very early cancer confined to a small area of the prostate.
- Stage II: Cancer may still be small but is now considered aggressive.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread beyond the prostate to nearby tissues.
- Stage IV: Cancer has invaded nearby organs or spread to lymph nodes, bones or other organs.
Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer
Working with your doctor will help determine which treatment option will be the best for you.
A radical prostatectomy is an in-patient procedure that requires the surgical removal of the prostate and its surrounding tissues.
The two primary types of radiation therapy used for prostate cancer are external beam radiation and brachytherapy (internal radiation).
The goal of hormone therapy, or androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) or androgen suppression therapy, is to reduce levels of androgens or stop them from affecting prostate cancer cells. Androgens, especially testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow.
Hormone therapy alone does not cure prostate cancer.
While surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, chemotherapy works throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can kill cancer cells that have spread to parts of the body far away from the original tumor.
Chemotherapy is not a standard treatment for early prostate cancer.
Prognosis of Prostate Cancer
When discussing patients with Stage I, II or III prostate cancer:
- 99% of men will survive more than five years after a prostate cancer diagnosis
- 98% will survive more than ten years
- 95% of patients will survive more than 15 years.
The 5-year survival rate for Stage IV prostate cancer that has metastasized is about 28%.
Learn more about the Shawnee Mission Cancer Center.