The prostate is an organ which is part of the male reproductive system and it is found at the base of the urethra and surrounding it. The main functions of the prostate gland are to control the flow of urine and to produce certain minerals and sugars which are found in the seminal fluid (semen). The prostate gland of young and healthy males is roughly the size of a walnut but it tends to grow during the normal aging process which is known as a benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and causes urinary disturbances.
Understanding Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a malignant growth which originates in the cells of the prostate gland. Typically, the beginning stage of the cancer has a slow progression as it may be present and going nowhere for many years and without displaying any signs of irregularity. As the cancer matures, it can spread (metastasize) to surrounding tissues as well as to other tissues of more remote organs of the body such as the bones, liver, kidneys, lymph nodes, stomach and lungs. When symptoms finally become apparent, they are indicative of advanced stages of the cancer. It is important to note here that there are also certain types of prostate cancer which are aggressive and fast moving from their beginning developmental stage.
Prostate cancer is found around the world but the lowest incident count is in South and East Asia and the count goes up among the European nations. In the United States, prostate cancer is counted among the most frequently occurring cancers in men as one out of six are affected and this is the highest global rate. Prostate cancer is most prevalent among men over fifty and the risk increases as men grow older. In most cases, it is discovered through routine screenings such as the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test or a digital rectal exam (DRE).
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
As mentioned above, early stages of prostate cancer are usually asymptomatic. However, when symptoms finally appear they most likely affect urinary and sexual functions with the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination, most particularly during the night.
- Trouble maintaining a constant stream of urine as it tends to stop and start and its flow is significantly slowed.
- Blood in the urine and/or the semen.
- Pain during urination and/or ejaculation.
- 5Inability to achieve an erection.
When prostate cancer extends to other areas of the body, more symptoms will be experienced such as:
- Persistent pain in the bones; most frequently in the vertebrae, pelvis or ribs and that may be accompanied by frequent fractures.
- General weakness and fatigue.
- Urinary and fecal incontinence.
- Swollen legs.
The specific causes for prostate cancer are not known and perhaps they are multifaceted. However, the risk factors are known to include:
a) Advanced Age – This is the biggest risk as approximately thirty percent of men over the age of 50 and eighty percent of men over the age of 70 have prostate cancer whether they have been diagnosed or not. Prostate cancer in men under 45 years of age is extremely rarely.
b) Genetics and Heredity – Men whose fathers or brothers had prostate cancer are at much higher risk than the average men.
c) Race or Ethnicity – African American men are in the highest risk group.
d) Diet – Foods deficient in minerals, vitamins and Omega 3 fatty oils increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
f) Hormonal Factors – High testosterone levels lead to the growth of the prostate gland and may therefore also lead to the abnormal growth of cancer cells.
g) Certain Medications and Medical Conditions.
h) Infrequent Ejaculations – Men who ejaculate less than 5 times per week are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
i) Environmental Aspects.
k) Miscellaneous other issues.
There are several available treatments for prostate cancer and the choice depends on the age of the patient and his overall health condition, on the stage of the cancer and how much it has spread as well as on the benefit of one route of treatments versus another. The most often used treatments are external beam radiation treatment (EBRT) which involves high-powered X-rays to destroy cancer cells; radioactive seed implants (brachytherapy) deliver high doses of radiation; hormone therapy to stop the body’s production of testosterone; radical prostatectomy involves the removal of the prostate gland and neighboring lymph nodes; chemotherapy kills the cells which grow out of control; cryotherapty destroys cancerous cells by means of freezing; and watchful waiting (observation, expectant therapy or deferred therapy).