Overview and Facts about Prostate Cancer
The prostate gland is located at the base of the bladder, near the front of the rectum. The gland secretes some of the fluids that are present in semen. It also helps control bladder function.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men. Fortunately, prostate cancer is generally treatable. Treatment for prostate cancer, an oncology condition, may include robotic surgery, radiation or hormone therapy.
Regular physical exams and prostate screenings can help diagnose prostate cancer in the early stages.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
In its earliest stages, prostate cancer may not cause any symptoms. But early prostate cancer often causes problems with bladder function. Other common symptoms may include:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Difficulty passing urine
- Blood in urine
Some men with prostate cancer also have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection, or notice blood in their semen.
Symptoms of more advanced prostate cancer may include:
- Pelvic pain
- Bone pain
- Bone fractions
- Leg weakness
Causes and Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer results from abnormal cell growth. The cancer may be confined to the prostate gland or it may metastasize and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer doesn't always have a clear cause. But certain factors may increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Known risk factors include:
- Family history of prostate cancer
- Increased age
60 percent of all prostate cancer cases are found in men over 65 years old. Prostate cancer is also more common in African-American men. Some studies have indicated that smoking or exposure to certain chemicals may increase a person's risk of developing prostate cancer.
Tests and Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
A digital rectal exam is an important prostate cancer screening tool. During this exam, your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to check your prostate for lumps or abnormal swelling.
Depending on your age or other risk factors, your doctor may also recommend a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. This simple blood test helps measure the levels of substances created by the prostate gland. Elevated levels may suggest a problem with your prostate
If your doctor suspects prostate cancer, he or she may recommend a prostate ultrasound. During this test, a doctor or technician inserts an ultrasound probe into your rectum to examine your prostate. Your doctor may also use a needle to take a tissue sample for a biopsy.
Treatment and Care for Prostate Cancer
If you're diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor may refer you to a urologic oncologist physician who specializes in cancer treatment. The recommended treatment will depend on how advanced your prostate cancer is when it is diagnosed.
A robotic prostatectomy (a minimally invasive procedure to remove the prostate gland) is commonly performed in the otherwise healthy man with prostate cancer. Several different types of radiation may help destroy cancer cells. If your cancer is aggressive or has spread to other parts of the body, you may need hormonal therapy.
For men with low-grade, localized and slow-growing tumors, disease management called active surveillance may be recommended. Active surveillance involves watching the cancer instead of treating it right away.
Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for active surveillance. In general, you may qualify if your cancer is localized (has not spread), you have no symptoms, a long life expectancy and the cancer is not affecting your quality of life.
Active surveillance requires regular follow-up visits to ensure the cancer is not progressing, at which point treatment would need to be started to stop the disease at a curable stage. Follow-up visits may involve a digital rectal exam, PSA testing and biopsies at an interval your doctor recommends.