Prostate cancer has a slow onset and progresses gradually. Most cases diagnosed with prostate cancer can survive well with prompt treatment and care.
Role Of The Prostate Gland
The urethra which carries urine and semen passes through the prostate gland. Muscle fibers in the prostate gland control the flow of urine by contracting and relaxing. This gland has a number of tiny glands in the prostate that produce a fluid, which forms the semen. This fluid also nourishes and protects the sperms. During an ejaculation, contractions force the prostate gland to secrete this semen into the urethra, and it comes out of the penis.
Causes of the Prostate Gland
Like most cancers, there is no known cause of this disease, and genetic mutations are considered to play a significant role.
There are a number of risk factors that predispose certain individuals to this cancer.
- Age: The primary risk factor for this cancer is age. The older the man gets the higher the risk. This cancer is very rare in a man under the age of 45 years.
- Ethnic groups: More common amongst men of African-Caribbean and African descent than men of Asian origin.
- Family history: This runs in families. So having a brother or father affected by this cancer can increase the risk. Studies show that having a close female relative who has breast cancer also increases the risk.
- Obesity: Recent studies show there is a link between obesity and prostate cancer.
- Diet: A diet high in calcium is linked to an increased risk of developing this cancer.
- Infection: Studies show the role of sexually transmitted infections in the causation of prostate cancer. People who are infected with STDs have about 1.4 times more chance.
- Cadmium: Exposure to this metal shows increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Early stages of this cancer show no symptoms; however, symptoms appear when there is some obstruction or pressure at the neck of the bladder. This causes certain difficulties in urination.
- Frequent urination, more so in the night.
- Difficulty in initiating and stopping urination.
- Pain while urinating.
- Dribbling of urine and feeling of fullness in the bladder.
- These symptoms of urination can also occur in conditions other than prostate cancer such as benign prostate enlargement.
- If it is chronic cancer, there is an increased chance for urinary tract infection.
- Other rare symptoms include blood in urine, painful ejaculation, and inability to have an ejaculation.
Most cases require no active treatment other than watchful waiting with constant monitoring and follow up. It is important to monitor whether the tumor has increased in size or is progressing and causing other symptoms. The aim of the treatment is to cure and control the disease and increase life expectancy so that it does not affect daily living.
Evaluation of the prostate gland is mainly done through a digital rectal examination, prostate specific antigen test, bone scan, CT scan, and MRI scan.
Staging of tumor is important as tumor size, location, and extend of spread are vital for planning treatment. Staging is also useful for understanding outlook and prognosis of prostate cancer.
Tumor stage, tumor grade, and PSA value are important factors that define the severity of this disease.
- Active monitoring
- Radical prostatectomy: surgery which requires hospital stay wherein the entire gland is removed. Nowadays robotic surgery is also performed.
- Radiation therapy: this is done every day for a duration of 8 weeks.
- Cryotherapy: where low temperatures are used to kill cancerous cells.
Advanced Treatment Options
- Hormonal therapy: this slows down the growth of cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: administration of drugs to kill affected cells.