You may feel anxious about what prostate cancer looks like and what you should do about it in your own health.
Or you may wonder why some men get prostate cancer but not others.
Let us look into issues around prostate cancer as they may affect you.
What Prostate Cancer Means
Prostate Cancer happens when cells of the prostate gland start to grow out of control.
The prostate gland is an important organ in men, that contributes to the semen or ejaculatory fluid where sperm is stored and nourished.
So, it is important for reproduction, though not essential for life.
The prostate gland is about the size of a ping pong ball and located at the bottom of the urinary bladder.
The best way to feel the gland is by a digital rectal examination.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
We do not yet know exactly what causes or leads to cancer.
However, it appears to happen more often in certain situations which we refer to as 'risk factors'.
We think cancer development anywhere may be as a result of chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a response of your immune system - which may go out of control leading to cancer.
But what triggers this inflammation? Could it be a combination of factors?
This is still not very clear.
So, the emphasis is placed on ways to reduce the risk factors for cancer.
What are the risk factors ?
Some of these risk factors are:
- Having a close relative with the condition (father, uncle) increases the risk.
- This may be from an inherited genetic change or mutation
- Older age - men above the age of 50 years appear to be more at risk.
- Some scientists believe exposure to recurrent infections like prostatitis or sexually transmitted infections when younger may contribute to the risk of developing cancer, but this is not always the case.
- Race - while this is still being closely studied, it appears that men of African background including African, African-American or Afro-Caribbean origin are of increased risk for developing Prostate Cancer.
- Lifestyle habits including smoking, a diet high in fat and carbohydrates, being overweight or leading a sedentary lifestyle are all factors in the development of prostate cancer.
How can men prevent Prostate Cancer?
As you can see from the possible risk factors, some are not within our control like race, age or family background.
So we cannot completely prevent cancer from happening, though we may reduce the risks of it happening to as much a degree as we can.
At present, prostate screening is the best way to reduce the risk of late diagnosis and complications.
Screening for Cancer of the Prostate
There are 2 screening procedures for the prostate:
A blood test for PSA, prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland can indicate the presence of cancer early on in the process.
Although it can be high in other conditions, it is very useful when used with the second screening method, Digital Rectal Examination (DRE).
In a DRE, the doctor will perform a manual examination of the rectum to feel if the prostate has become bigger or harder; some of the signs of prostate cancer.
How Prostate Cancer is Diagnosed
The conclusive way to diagnose if a man has cancer of the prostate is by an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan and a biopsy.
A biopsy is a method of taking a very small piece of tissue from the prostate in order to test for signs of cancer.
The MRI scan is not invasive, it involves having a series of 'pictures' of the prostate gland using the MRI scanner.
The biopsy, on the other hand, involves an operation where your doctor collects tissue from the prostate through the skin for testing.
It is important to discuss all these methods in detail with your urologist (the specialist who looks after male reproductive organs).
What should you do if you are worried about the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
It's best to speak to your doctor about screening tests which you can have.
This is especially if you are of African background, over the age of 45 years and have a relative who has prostate cancer.
You may also be worried about symptoms that suggest cancer in the prostate gland.
These may be:
- Passing urine more often (especially at night) and with urgency - that means being unable to hold your urine before you get to a toilet.
- Pain when passing urine
- Blood in your urine or semen.
- A change to your urinary flow such as weakness of the flow.
- Dribbling when passing urine.
- Difficulty in starting to pass urine even when you feel pressed - known as strain.
- There may also be a difficulty holding your urine.
- Pressure or pain around the anus or rectum.
- Pain in the lower back, hips, legs etc.
How is Cancer of the Prostate Treated?
If the cancer is found early, the options for treatment can include radiotherapy, surgery as well as medication (chemotherapy).
In some cases, it may be a case of 'watchful waiting' instead of surgery or radiotherapy.
The method chosen depends on your overall health, age and how early the cancer is when discovered.
Taking all this into account helps decide which is the best for your specific situation.
Remember that different options may have some complications - such as side effects from medication or surgery.
Now that you have a better idea about what prostate cancer looks like, you can start asking more questions.
And there is a lot more information in the reference section.
Speak to your doctor about tests for prostate cancer today.
Ladies! Share this post with your brothers, husbands, sons and male friends.
Being Prostate Aware is not just a 'man's problem'!
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
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