What is prostate cancer?
Abnormal growth of cells which eventually spreads to other parts of the body is known as cancer in general. There are more than a hundred types of cancers that are known to affect human beings.
Whenever abnormal growth of cells occur, in the initial stages it is called tumor. Such tumor may be benign or malignant. When they are diagnosed as malignant a person is said to be affected by the disease, cancer. It must be understood that not all tumors are cancers.
Prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system surrounding the urethra and appear just below the urinary bladder. In a healthy male, the prostate normally appear a little larger than a walnut weighing about 11 gm.
Within the prostate gland lies the ejaculatory ducts which are responsible for transmission of sperm, particularly during sexual intercourse.
Prostate gland produces an alkaline fluid which forms part of the semen. The alkaline fluid produced by prostate gland neutralizes the acidity in the vaginal tract.
When cancer develops in the prostate, it is called prostate cancer or carcinoma of the prostate.
Prostate cancer generally affects men over 50 years of age or those with a family history of the particular disease. Race is also a factor in the incidence of prostate cancer.
Unlike many other cancers, prostate cancer is slow growing, barring certain exceptions where the growth is relatively quicker.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
In most men who are affected by prostate cancer there may not be any symptom at all. In some cases the symptom may surface only at the advanced stage of prostate cancer. However there are certain common symptoms noticed by prostate cancer patients which need to be taken seriously and further diagnosed to confirm that the disease has set in. In some cases mere enlargement of the prostate can cause some of the symptoms even though there is no cancer in the prostate.
Two types of prostate cancer are known. When the prostate cancer develops from the prostate gland, it is called adenocarcinoma. When the cancer develops from other tissues it is called sarcoma.
Symptoms that are noticed or experienced by a person affected by prostate cancer are:
- Difficulty in starting urination
- Difficulty or strain in emptying the bladder
- Decrease in velocity of the flow of urine
- Pain during urination
- Bleeding during urination
- Blood noticed in the semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Frequent urination during nights
- Pain or numbness in the hips, legs and feet
- Urinary tract infection
Symptoms of advanced stage of prostate cancer are
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Unusual weight loss
- Pain or swelling in the hip, leg or foot
- Pain in the bones
Many of the symptoms are merely obstructive in nature and need not necessarily be due to prostate cancer. That a person is affected by prostate cancer can be confirmed only through diagnosis.
Each person affected by prostate cancer may have different symptoms and no person affected by the disease may have all the symptoms.
Symptoms during early stage of prostate cancer
Early stage of prostate cancer does not reveal any symptom and any symptom is noticed only after significant blockage of the urine flow.
When any of the symptom is noticed, two types of screening tests are undertaken to determine whether further diagnosis is required to confirm prostate cancer in a person. The two screening tests are;
- Prostate Specific Androgen (PSA) and
- Digital Rectal Exams (DRE)
Diagnosis of prostate cancer is done by undertaking any or all of the following tests.
- Gene-based urine test to find out whether the cancer is genetic
- Transrectal ultra sound (TRUS) test in which a picture of the prostate is taken using ultra sound
- Examination of the tissue under a microscope called biopsy
- Combination of MRI test and TRUS called MRI fusion Biopsy
To find out whether the cancer in the prostate has spread to other areas, tests such as bone scan and MRI are undertaken.
Treatment of prostate cancer
Once diagnosed that a person is affected by prostate cancer, it is treated with:
- Active surveillance- that is watching the symptom closely as to the increase in the intensity. This is very important as the treatment of prostate cancer may cause side effects like impotence and or incontinence, retention of urine in the bladder even after urination.
- Local surgery
- Hormone therapy
- Radiation therapy
Initial stages of prostate cancer are just treated with drugs and if necessary by local surgery. As prostate cancer develops very slowly, in almost all the cases it is completely cured once diagnosed, as long as it has not spread to other areas. Hence it is vital to consult a doctor upon noticing minimum discomfort or any of the symptoms.