Description of Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer develops when cells in the prostate gland start to grow rapidly in an uncontrolled manner. It is the second most common type of cancer seen in males. In most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and stays undiagnosed because it does not show any symptoms. In some cases the cancer cells grow and spread quickly.
The stages of prostate cancer can be classified as:
1. Early prostate cancer or localized where cells have not spread beyond the prostate gland.
2. Advanced prostate cancer is of two types:
a. Locally advanced: If the cancer spreads outside the prostate gland into the nearby parts of the gland like bladder or rectum.
b. Metastatic: When cancer spreads to distant parts of the body such as bones and lymph glands.
Causes and Risk Factors
The exact cause of prostate cancer is still unknown, but risk of prostate cancer increases in following conditions:
1. Age: Prostate cancer is mainly diagnosed in older men over the age of 50 and risk increases with age.
2. Family history: Chances of prostate cancer is two and half times more if your father or brother has prostate cancer.
3. Inherited genes: Multiple relatives (mother's or father's side) with history of breast or ovarian cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
It is commonly seen that men over the age of 50 experience urinary problems. It is due to enlargement of the prostate gland which is a non-cancerous condition called as benign prostate hyperplasia (BHP).
In early stages, patients rarely experience any symptoms and in some cases even in advanced stages there might be no symptoms. Symptoms are more common in BHP.
Patient who do experience symptoms might complain of weak urine flow, difficulty when starting to urinate, blood in urine, frequent or sudden need to urinate (especially at night), leakage after urinating, pain in the lower back or pelvic area or sciatica, and unexplained weight loss. These symptoms cannot be stated as classic symptoms of prostate cancer; hence, you must speak to a doctor if there is presence of any of these symptoms.
Commonly advised tests are prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, digital rectal examination, and prostate biopsy. In case of metastasis, further tests like bone scan, CT scan, PET scan, and MRI scan are performed.
The doctor will decide your treatment depending on the investigations, stage and grade of prostate cancer, age, general health, and likely side effects of the treatment. In some localized prostate cancer active surveillance may be advised, where prostate cancer is monitored by performing tests every 3 to 6 months.
Another treatment line is by watchful waiting, where monitoring process are less strict than active surveillance. Cancer treatments like radiotherapy, chemotherapy may be advised if cancer spreads. In cases surgical intervention like radical prostatectomy, transurethral resection may be required.
Complications and When Should You See a Doctor
If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is advised to discuss with your doctor. If your doctor suspects that there are chances of prostate cancer, you may be referred to an urologist or an oncologist for further investigations and treatments.
Prognosis and Prevention
Prognosis is better while it is diagnosed in the early stage and necessary precautions are taken. However, no doctor can predict the course of the disease. Since the causative factor is unknown, there are no exact preventive measures that can be advised. However, following a good diet and living a healthy and stress free lifestyle will help in prevention of any cancer.
Did You Know?
Many men live with prostate cancer for a lifetime without any symptoms and spread of the cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Prostate cancer
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