What is Prostate Cancer?
WHAT IS THE PROSTATE AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
The prostate is a small gland located at the bottom of the bladder, surrounding the topmost section of the urethra, the tube that drains urine from the bladder. It produces prostatic fluid, and it is connected to the seminal vesicles, which produce fluid that mixes with the prostatic fluid to form semen.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
Prostate cancer cells grow on top of one another, forming a tumor. Cancer cells can also break away from the prostate and travel throughout the body, attaching themselves to other tissues and continue to grow - a process called metastasis.
WHAT CAUSES PROSTATE CANCER?
No one knows the exact cause. What we do know is certain risk factors exist that may increase the chances of developing prostate cancer.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?
The strongest risk factor is age. The disease is rare in men younger than 40, but the chances of getting it increase sharply as a man ages. If a member of a man's immediate family (like a father or brother) has had prostate cancer, his risk is higher than average. Race also plays a role too. Prostate cancer is more common in African American men.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF PROSTATE CANCER?
That's the problem; most men don't experience any symptoms. But when they do, they may have frequent, hesitant, or burning urination; difficulty in having an erection (ED); or pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs. Any or all of these symptoms could indicate other disorders besides prostate cancer, so a complete medical screening is recommended.
HOW CAN PROSTATE CANCER BE DETECTED?
The most common screening tests are the digital rectal exam (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Both can be performed in the doctor's office, and both are recommended for all men over the age of 50 as a normal part of their health monitoring. If you are in a higher risk group (African American or close family member with prostate cancer), screening is recommended beginning at age 45.
IF EITHER OR BOTH OF THESE TESTS SHOW CANCER MAY BE PRESENT, WHAT THEN?
The presence - or absence - of prostate cancer is confirmed by a biopsy of the prostate gland. The doctor uses needles to remove small tissue samples and then looks at the samples under a microscope to detect cancer cells. If the biopsy shows cancer is present, you and your doctor will discuss treatment options.
About Prostate Cancer Treatment
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS?
That depends on the patient and the stage of his cancer. The most common types of recommended treatment are surgery, radiation therapy and Cryosurgery - or freezing of the cancer cells.
Surgery - the most common treatment for early stage prostate cancer, used to remove the cancer. Sometimes the entire prostate is removed, called radical prostatectomy. Depending on the extent of the cancer, your surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes. Today some doctors are performing robot-assisted surgeries using the remarkable daVinci ® system. This advanced procedure allows complex surgical tasks to be performed with minimum damage to surrounding nerves, muscles, structures and organs. Recovery time is typically shorter as well.
Radiation Therapy - uses high energy external x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Treatment sessions usually occur daily over a defined course of time. Today, advanced radiation therapy called intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is being used to minimize damage to normal tissues around the cancer.
Cryosurgery - a relatively new technique being used to treat localized prostate cancer through the freezing of prostate cells. It utilizes ultrasound-guided placement of cooling probes into the prostate gland.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS WITH THESE TREATMENTS?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these treatment options including the potential for ED, or erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence and other side effects. Talk to your doctor honestly about your expectations and concerns for each option before deciding on the right path of treatment for you.