Updated 2 August 2023 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Prostate Cancer?Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate gland in males. The prostate gland is located near the bladder and produces fluid that helps transport sperm. In normal circumstances, the prostate gland produces a fluid that nourishes and transports sperm during ejaculation. However, sometimes the cells in the prostate gland can start growing in an abnormal and uncontrolled way, forming a tumour. This tumour can be cancerous, which means it can spread to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early.
Prostate Cancer SymptomsProstate cancer symptoms are signs that indicate a possible presence of prostate cancer in males. While early-stage prostate cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms, as the cancer progresses, certain signs may appear. It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other non-cancerous conditions. Regular check-ups and open communication with a doctor are key to addressing prostate cancer symptoms and receiving timely treatment if needed. These include :
- Difficulties in urinating, such as a weak or interrupted urine flow
- Frequent urination (especially at night).
- Not being able to empty the bladder.
- The feeling of not fully emptying the bladder.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Pain or discomfort in the lower back, hips, or pelvis
- Problems during sex, such as erectile dysfunction
- Problems with sexual function, such as erectile dysfunction.
Prostate Cancer CausesThe exact causes of prostate cancer are not fully understood, but several factors can increase the risk of developing this disease. While these factors can increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer, it's important to remember that not everyone with these risk factors will develop the disease. Regular check-ups, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and discussing any concerns with your doctors are essential for proactive health management.
AgeAge is a significant risk factor for developing prostate cancer, with the risk increasing as men get older . Prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50. Changes in the prostate gland and cumulative exposure to risk factors over time contribute to the age-related increase in risk.
Family HistoryFamily history plays a significant role in the increased risk of developing prostate cancer . Having close relatives, such as a father or brother, with a history of prostate cancer can raise an individual's risk. The risk increases further if multiple family members have been diagnosed with the disease. Inherited genetic factors may predispose individuals to prostate cancer. However, it's important to note that family history alone does not guarantee the development of prostate cancer, and individuals without a family history can still be affected.
Hormonal ImbalancesHormonal imbalances can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer . Testosterone, a male hormone, plays a role in the growth and function of the prostate gland. When hormonal imbalances occur, such as high levels of testosterone, it can stimulate the growth of prostate cells and potentially contribute to the development of cancerous cells. The exact reasons behind this are not fully understood, but hormonal imbalances are believed to influence the growth and division of prostate cells, increasing the risk of developing cancer.
Lifestyle FactorsCertain lifestyle factors can influence the risk of developing prostate cancer. While the exact reasons behind these associations are not fully understood, it is believed that a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Examples of these unhealthy lifestyle practices include:
- A diet high in red meat
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables.
- Physical inactivity.
- Being overweight or obese.
Prostate Cancer TreatmentProstate cancer treatment aims to remove or destroy cancer cells in the prostate gland. The specific treatment options depend on factors such as the stage of cancer, overall health, and personal preferences . Regular communication and shared decision-making with your doctor are pivotal for receiving the necessary treatment.
Active MonitoringFor some early-stage prostate cancers that are slow-growing and not causing significant symptoms, doctors may recommend active surveillance. This involves closely monitoring the cancer with regular check-ups, blood tests, and imaging, without immediate treatment. If the cancer shows signs of progressing, active treatment options may be considered.
SurgerySurgery involves removing the entire prostate gland and surrounding tissues. This procedure is called a radical prostatectomy. It can be done through traditional open surgery or minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery. Surgery may be suitable for localised cancer that hasn't spread to other areas.
Radiation TherapyRadiation therapy uses high-energy beams to target and kill cancer cells. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally through radioactive implants (brachytherapy). Radiation therapy may be used as the primary treatment for localized prostate cancer or as an additional treatment after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells.
Hormone TherapyHormone therapy aims to reduce the levels of male hormones (such as testosterone) or block their effects on cancer cells. Prostate cancer cells often rely on these hormones to grow. Hormone therapy can be done through medications or surgical removal of the testicles (orchiectomy). It is typically used for advanced or metastatic prostate cancer to slow down cancer growth and relieve symptoms.
ChemotherapyChemotherapy involves the use of drugs that target and kill cancer cells throughout the body. It is generally used in advanced cases of prostate cancer that have spread to distant organs. Chemotherapy can help shrink tumours, alleviate symptoms, and prolong survival.
Other Treatment OptionsIn addition to the above treatments, there are upcoming therapies such as immunotherapy and targeted therapy that are being researched and used in certain cases of advanced prostate cancer. These treatments work by stimulating the body's immune system or targeting specific genetic mutations in cancer cells.
Prostate Cancer ComplicationsProstate cancer can lead to several complications, particularly if it is not detected or treated early . One common complication is the spread of cancer cells beyond the prostate gland, known as metastasis. This can spread to other areas in the body, such as the bladder, liver, lungs or bones. Metastasis can cause further symptoms, such as fractures, breathing difficulties and pain. Prostate cancer can directly lead to consequences, such as urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) or erectile dysfunction (problems with achieving or maintaining an erection). However, it's important to remember that not all individuals will experience these complications, and their likelihood and severity can vary.
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