Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of carcinomas known to afflict men in the United States. The condition is also one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among males of all races and populations of Hispanic origin.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 209,292 males living in the U.S. have been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, and about 27,970 American men have lost their lives because of complications from the condition.
To find out more about this dreaded cancer and how to lower the risk of developing the condition, here are some of the facts on prostate cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
This particular form of cancer originates in the male gland known as the prostate, located in front of the rectum and just below the urinary bladder.
While the prostate changes in size as an individual age, most of its development occurs during the puberty stage, corresponding to an increase production of androgens, or male hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and testosterone.
When an individual reaches adulthood, the growth of the prostate slows down and it reaches its average size, which is often the same size as a walnut.
From this point on, the gland's primary function is to produce a liquid substance that protects and nourishes the sperm cells in a person's semen.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
In some cases, the inner portion of the prostate gland continues to develop as individuals grow older. This often leads to a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), where the tissue of the prostate presses on the individual's urethra, resulting in difficulty in secreting urine.
BPH, however, is not a form of prostate cancer and it does not lead to the condition, even though it can cause considerable discomfort in men. Doctors often prescribe medicines that can help the prostate gland shrink its size or have the muscles connected to it to relax, allowing urine to pass freely again. If medicines do not help alleviate the condition, some type of surgery may be needed.
Cancer of the prostate often starts with the cells of the gland, which are the same cells that make up the fluid included in semen. Doctors refer to this form of prostate cancer as adenocarcinoma.
Other types of prostate cancer include small cell carcinomas, sarcomas, transitional cell carcinomas and neuroendocrine tumors.
Research on prostate cancer has found that there are three main factors that could influence the development of prostate cancer in men. These are based on an individual's age, family history and even race.
The CDC said that as an individual grows older, he becomes more and more susceptible developing prostate cancer.
However, certain genes from within the individual's body may also impact the likelihood of growing the condition. While a specific gene has yet to be identified as a factor to the increase or decrease of prostate cancer development, studies suggest that a man who has a father, brother, or son diagnosed with the disease is two to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer as well.
Another finding suggests that the risk of prostate cancer is also dependent on the race of an individual, with some ethnic and racial groups more susceptible to developing the disease though it is yet to be fully understood by medical experts.
Some individuals who have prostate cancer experience symptoms of the disease, but there are those who do not have these signs.
- Common symptoms of the condition include the following:
- Problems in passing urine freely
- Flow of urine is interrupted or weak
- Having the urge to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Problems in emptying the bladder completely
- Painful or burning sensation when urinating
- Blood in the semen or urine
- Recurrent pain in the hips, pelvis or back
- Problems in ejaculating
Screening and Diagnosis
The risk of prostate cancer can be detected early through screening even before its symptoms begin to manifest, though the development of the disease can sometimes be slow or not even at all.
The two well-known screening procedures are the digital rectal exam (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
DRE is carried out by having the doctor estimate the size of the patient's prostate by inserting a finger in the rectum and feeling for lumps and other abnormalities.
PSA, on the other hand, measures the amount of PSA, which is a substance produced by the prostate, in the patient's blood. Men who have prostate cancer often have higher levels of PSA in their bloodstream, but it could also be influenced by other factors such as medication or an infection of the gland.
If the results of the DRE or PSA exams turn out abnormal, doctors will sometimes conduct further examinations confirm the presence of prostate cancer.
One of the diagnostic procedures is called transrectal ultrasound, wherein the doctor will insert a probe through the rectum of the patient in order to have high-energy sound waves produce a sonogram of the prostate gland.
The second one is through a biopsy, which involves taking a tissue sample of an individual's prostate gland and examining it under a microscope to see if there are cancer cells present. The doctor will then assess the health of the gland using the Gleason score, designed to identify the cancer cells likelihood to spread.
Once carcinoma of the prostate has been confirmed, doctors will then suggest different treatments to address the condition.
The first one is through active surveillance, wherein the doctor will regularly monitor the development of the prostate gland through DRE and PSA exams. The cancer will only be treated if it continues to grow or cause symptoms.
The second treatment option is through a surgical procedure known as prostatectomy, which involves the removal of the prostate gland and even its surrounding tissues.
The third one is through radiation therapy, which makes use of high-energy rays to gradually kill off the cancer in the prostate.
The fourth treatment is hormone therapy, which involves the blocking of certain hormones in the patient's body to prevent cancer cells from continuing to grow.