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Prostate cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About prostate cancer

Prostate is a gland belonging to the reproductive system in men. Its function is to produce and store seminal fluid. Prostate cancer is a cancerous growth affecting the prostate gland and unlike other cancers, it grows slowly and may not spread for many years.

Prostate cancer: Incidence, age and sex

Prostate cancer is commonly found in men over 80 years of age. It may occur at any age, but is extremely rare under the age of 40 years.

Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer: Diagnosis

Prostate cancer in the early stage usually causes no symptoms. More often than not, it is first detected during a laboratory investigation by an abnormal blood test or during clinical examination by a hard nodule in the prostate gland. However, it may cause symptoms in some individuals. Such symptoms include diminished outflow of urine, difficulty in urination, or burning sensation during urination. Later, when cancer spreads and becomes advanced, the affected individual may complain of weight loss, increased fatigue and malaise.

A blood test detects a protein, namely ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA) that is usually elevated in individuals with prostate cancer. A high level of PSA is generally indicative of prostate cancer, but it can also be elevated in cases of infection and inflammation of prostate.

Furthermore, the urologist may like to perform a digital rectal examination to detect abnormal growth in the prostate. Biopsy (removal of a portion of tissue to study under microscope) is recommended to establish the diagnosis of prostate cancer and plan subsequent management.

Causes and prevention of prostate cancer

There is no known cause for development of prostate cancer. However, certain factors may increase the chances of development of prostate cancer in individuals. These factors include age over 65 years, family history of prostate cancer, genetic factors, diet (rich in red meat and low in fibre) and hormonal influences like increased levels of testosterone. Recent evidence suggests that prior history of sexually transmitted diseases predisposes a man to development of prostate cancer. No specific measures can be taken to prevent the development of prostate cancer, but it can definitely be detected and managed timely by regular health checks.

Prostate cancer: Complications

Prostate cancer, in advanced stage may spread to adjacent body structures. It may also spread to distant body organs through the blood route. Bones are the commonest structures affected by spread of cancerous cells of the prostate. Other complications include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, which may also occur as side affects of cancer management, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and even surgery.

Prostate cancer: Treatment

The treatment of prostate cancer depends upon the location and extent of the cancer. It also depends on the overall health of the patient, his age, and presence of any co-existing medical conditions. Accordingly, treatment mode can be decided, which includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or cryotherapy, or a combination of some of these treatments.

Hormonal treatment may also be offered, particularly to patients with advanced prostate cancer. The male hormone, testosterone, stimulates the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate; therefore, is the primary fuel for the growth of cancer cells. Hormonal therapy aims at decreasing the stimulation of the cancerous prostatic cells by testosterone.

Cryotherapy is a mode of treating prostate cancer when it is generally locally advanced. This method employs the use of administration of a freezing liquid through a needle into the cancer cells, thus killing the cancer cells by freezing them.

The prognosis of prostate cancer depends upon its stage. Timely detection of cancer at early stage results in effective treatment and good survival rate.