Prostate Cancer: Signs, Prevention, and Treatments

Prostate Cancer: Signs, Prevention, and Treatments
Woman with blue ribbon, prostate cancer awareness.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is usually discovered at a late stage when it is potentially life-threatening. When caught early, it can be successfully treated and even prevented through screening and lifestyle changes. Yet, in 2020 alone, more than 1.4 million new prostate cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide, and about 34,500 deaths (US data) from prostate cancer are estimated in 2022.

Because of the substantial burden posed by this disease in men, it is critically important to be aware of its early signs of prostate cancer, prevention methods, and treatment options. Reading this article, you can find out everything you need to know about prostate cancer.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

In terms of prevalence, prostate cancer ranks as the second most common cancer among men and the fourth most common cancer in general. Prostate cancer involves the formation of malignant (cancer) cells in the prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

Its principal function is to secrete a fluid that forms part of semen — the fluid that transports sperm out of the body during ejaculation. Most men develop benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate, as they age. It’s this noncancerous condition that causes many men to have difficulty urinating.

Prostate cancer usually grows slowly, often causing no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Many men with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, according to recent data, there’s a 98% 5-year survival rate. But some types of prostate cancer are more aggressive and faster growing, so they may need treatment sooner than others.

Advanced prostate cancer is usually fatal within months or years once it has spread outside the prostate like the bones, liver, lungs, and lymph nodes, which can destroy healthy tissues. Therefore, proactiveness is still necessary.

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

There’s no known cause for prostate cancer. It’s thought that some risk factors make it more likely for you to develop the disease, but having any one of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll get prostate cancer.

Age: A person’s risk of becoming ill with prostate cancer increases with age, starting at age 50. It’s found most often in older men over 65.
Race:There is a high incidence of prostate cancer among black men in the United States and the Caribbean.
Genes: Family history of prostate or breast cancer. Men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate or breast cancer may have an increased risk of developing it themselves.
Obesity:Those who are overweight or obese have higher chances of developing prostate cancer than those who are of a healthy weight.

Signs of Prostate Cancer

Signs and symptoms of this cancer vary from person to person. It is possible for some men to even have no symptoms at all. But in general, symptoms appear late in the course of the disease. These symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer. That’s why it’s important to check in with a doctor. Prostate cancer symptoms include:

  • Blood in your urine
  • Semen containing blood
  • Painful ejaculation or erections.
  • Weak stream when urinating or interrupted the flow of urine
  • Painful or burning feeling when urinating
  • Constant urination during the night
  • Urinary tract infections that come back again and again
  • Having an urge to urinate much more frequently than usual

Prostate Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis

If you are a man over 50, see your doctor for a proper physical exam and correct screening. Early detection is more likely to lead to successful treatment. Prostate cancer may be found during a routine physical exam or as a result of specific tests performed for other reasons.

Diagnosis starts with a complete medical history review and discussing your symptoms. They may also order tests, which may include:

Digital rectal exam (DRE)

Examining the prostate gland involves the doctor inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the shape and size of the gland. An abnormal finding or lumps from the test may prompt further testing, such as an imaging scan or biopsy.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

The PSA level in your blood is often used as an early indication of possible prostate problems, including prostate cancer. The higher your PSA level, the more likely you are to have prostate cancer or BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). But high levels don’t always mean you have cancer. Men who have had a negative test in the past should still be monitored with annual PSA tests starting at age 40.

Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS)

During a TRUS, your doctor will use a small, hand-held device with a probe to examine your prostate gland. The probe sends sound waves through your body and into your prostate gland. These sound waves create an image of the inside of your prostate gland on a computer screen.

A TRUS can show if there are any lumps in your prostate gland or other abnormalities such as cysts or tumors. It can also tell if there are any signs of cancer in other parts of your body.

Biopsy

It is a procedure in which tissue samples are removed from the body and examined under a microscope by pathologists. The pathologist looks at cells and determines whether they are malignant or benign.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, regular checkups can help detect any recurrence or worsening of your condition. Additionally, prostate cancer can recur after treatment. You should continue getting screenings even if you’ve previously had prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer treatment depends on the stage of the disease and your overall health. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

Active Surveillance

Active surveillance is the most common treatment for men with localized prostate cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the prostate gland. Watchful waiting means closely monitoring your condition without taking immediate action to treat it.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy uses drugs that block testosterone production or reduce its activity in the body (anti-androgens). It’s often used before surgery or radiation therapy to shrink the tumor and make it easier to operate on or target with radiation therapy.

Surgery or Radical Prostatectomy (RP)

A prostate cancer surgery involves removing the gland along with any surrounding tissue that may contain cancer cells. The surgeon cuts out the tumor along with some healthy tissue around it to reduce the chance of nerve damage during surgery and preserve urinary function as much as possible. It may be done to treat the early-stage or advanced disease that hasn’t spread outside the prostate gland.

Radiation Therapy

Using high-energy rays, radiation therapy destroys cancer cells in your body while limiting damage to healthy tissues near them. It may be used after surgery for patients with a higher risk of recurrence. Or patients can have it as an alternative treatment before surgery in men with locally advanced prostate cancer that hasn’t spread outside the gland.

Brachytherapy Implantation (BT)

An option for treating localized prostate cancer, this procedure uses radioactive pellets implanted near the tumor using tiny tubes called catheters. The pellets stay in place permanently and give off radiation for several days or weeks, killing cancer cells and shrinking the tumor.

The Best Tips for Prostate Cancer Prevention

There’s no single way to prevent prostate cancer entirely. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing this disease. You can reduce the chances of prostate cancer by doing the following:

Get regular physical exams

Starting at age 40, men should talk to their doctors about getting a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) and digital rectal exam (DRE). Men may need to go in for these tests more frequently if there is a family history of this type of cancer or other risk factors.

Don’t smoke

Smoking increases the risk of prostate cancer, though quitting can lower the risk over time. It’s also important not to expose yourself to secondhand smoke because it can increase your risk too.

Stay active

Physical activity reduces the risk of several types of cancer, including prostate cancer. The more you move, the better — even light activities such as walking are helpful.

Watch what you eat and drink

Ensure your diet is healthy by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Studies show that foods rich in lycopene, vitamin E, and selenium may help prevent prostate cancer when eaten regularly over time. Foods containing lycopene include tomatoes and watermelon; selenium is found in organ meats, seafood, eggs, and legumes such as lentils and beans.

Take Action to Protect Against Cancer

Do not wait! Avoid any form of prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor today and ensure they take the necessary action to test your prostate. You can count on PHWC to provide support and sexual wellness information at every step, from preventing the disease to living well following diagnosis. For more information, contact us at 441-292-5111 or schedule an appointment online information at every step, from preventing the disease to living well following diagnosis. 

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