What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects the prostate, a walnut-sized gland in front of the rectum, just below the bladder. The prostate gland is responsible for producing the seminal fluid that helps transport sperm cells from the testes.
Prostate cancer happens when normal cells in the prostate gland change into abnormal cells and grow out of control.
Prostate cancer ranks as the second most common type of cancer in men worldwide next to lung cancer. In the Philippines, a third of new cancer cases in 2018 were prostate cancer.
It’s one of the leading types of cancer among men in the country, and around one out of 100 men die before the age of 75.
While there are as yet no clear indications on the direct cause of prostate cancer, age is the most common risk factor.
Prostate Cancer is More Common in Elderly Men
In the Philippines, about six out of 10 men diagnosed with the disease are 65 or older, and there were rarely men younger than 40.
The risks involved with prostate cancer, are similar to those of other types of cancer:
- Family members who have a history of prostate cancer (or certain types of breast cancer)
- Poor diet
Signs and Symptoms
Prostate cancer symptoms are not easily apparent. While it mostly affects older men (usually over the age of 50), early detection still plays a huge part in the successful treatment of the disease.
Men with prostate cancer may not immediately show symptoms in their early stages, but as their cancer progresses, they may present the symptoms below:
- Urinary incontinence, or inability to control urination
- Urinary frequency, or needing to urinate more than usual
- A weaker urine stream
- Blood when urinating or ejaculating
- Painful ejaculation
- Pain and/or discomfort in the pelvic/hip area
- Trouble getting an erection
While prostate cancer tends to progress slowly, there are still risks of metastasizing. That is: prostate cancer spreading to other nearby parts of the body, such as the bladder or bones.
For that reason, it’s best to approach your physician and get screened early if you are aged 50, or if you have any of the risks or the symptoms listed above.
Screening and Diagnosis
There are a number of ways to diagnose prostate cancer. Prostate cancer screening is done prior to the onset of symptoms for high-risk individuals, while there are also separate diagnostic tests that can be done for individuals who already present some prostate cancer symptoms.
Screening and Diagnosis
When found early through screening tests, prostate cancer can be addressed, and its impact on the quality of life of the individual can be minimized.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
One such test is the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test — a blood test that can measure a substance that’s produced by the prostate. High levels of PSA can indicate an existing condition in the prostate, which can include prostate cancer.
However, elevated PSA levels could also be caused by:
- Other recent medical procedures
- Certain prescribed medications
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlargement of the prostate
- Infections in the prostate gland
Because of this, screening is typically done for individuals who are at more risk of developing prostate cancer.
Typically, men at age 50 and above are recommended to undergo screening based on their risk. But even those as young as 45 may be asked to undertake screening if they have immediate relatives who were diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
The PSA test could also be supported by several other tests, such as a digital rectal examination (DRE). During this test, a physician typically inserts a gloved finger into a patient’s anus to assess any abnormal physical attributes of the prostate.
A biopsy may also be ordered to extract and examine prostate gland tissue for possible cancerous growth.
Prostate Cancer Staging
After a biopsy, and a diagnosis of prostate cancer, doctors will usually determine the extent of the cancer’s progression in the patient’s body.
This is called staging, where several tests will be done to identify whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Based on the stage of the prostate cancer, a doctor will be able to prescribe treatment options that will could most effectively address the cancer.
Treatment and Prevention
Based on the biopsy results and the succeeding staging evaluations, patients will be offered treatment plans accordingly.
Treatment Plans for Prostate Cancer
This will largely depend on whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body or not, and may include:
- Active observation or surveillance of the patient through constant PSA level monitoring and regularly-scheduled prostate biopsies, if the cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body. This will include treating the cancer if it further develops or causes other symptoms
- Surgery to remove the prostate known as prostatectomy
- Radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells
- Hormonal therapy to eventually shrink the cancer cells by reducing hormones that stimulate prostate cancer growth
- Chemotherapy to directly destroy cancer cells or stop their growth. This is usually prescribed if hormonal therapy is not effective.
- Bone-directed therapy will ease pain and prevent further complications if the cancer has spread to the bones.
These treatment plans will also take into consideration the state of the patient, including their age, expected recovery and life expectancy, stage of the cancer, as well as the presence of other co-morbidities or existing conditions that might impact the treatment and progression of the cancer.
These treatments may also vary depending on the expertise of the doctor approached for the treatment plan, as different physicians might approach and address it differently.
As with any condition, it’s best to discuss with your doctor and find out the risks and side effects of your options beforehand.
Preventing any type of cancer, including prostate cancer, is all about reducing risk by living healthy; after all, most risk factors o cancer are lifestyle-related.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Prostate Cancer
Consider the below lifestyle changes, such as:
- Avoiding or quitting tobacco
- Maintaining a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables
- Exercising on a regular basis
- Avoiding overeating, as obesity is another risk factor that is related to many cancers and illnesses
- Drinking responsibly and sparingly
- Maintaining a good sleeping schedule
With knowledge of prostate cancer symptoms and treatment, an actionable plan for prevention is possible.
Due to the nature and incidence of prostate cancer in the country, it’s advisable to be proactive in managing your risk factors. This will help you to be diagnosed and subsequently treated at an early stage.
Learn more about men’s health, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.