Prostate Cancer

Definition

Prostate cancer is a slow growing cancer affecting the prostate gland in males. It is one of the most common cancers in older men although it can also affect younger males in rare cases. The incidence of prostate cancer varies from country to country. Worldwide it is the sixth most common cause of cancer-related death in men but ranks in second place in the US among the mos common causes of cancer-related deaths in males.

A family history of prostate cancer, certain ethnicity and advancing age are the common risk factors for developing prostate cancer. Treatment options depend upon the stage of prostate cancer. Very early stages of the cancer usually does not require any treatment but just regular follow-up for the progression of the disease. Usually prostate requires surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy or anti-cancer drugs.

Symptoms

Early stages of the disease often do not produce any symptoms. With progression of the disease the common symptoms are :

  • Painful urination.
  • Delayed or slowing in starting the urination.
  • Dribbling or leakage of urination especially after urination.
  • Straining while urinating and unable to empty the bladder completely.
  • Presence of blood in the urine and in the semen.

Spread of cancer through the blood stream or lymphatic system may spread to other organs like bones, bladder, kidney and so on which leads to symptoms like :

  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Severe bone pain.
  • Sexual problem due to erectile dysfunction due to treatment surgery, radiation and hormone therapy.

Causes

Like other cancers, the exact cause of prostate cancer is not known. The cells of the body are continuously being replaced by new cells by the process of cell division. Older cells are removed due to age and damage and new cells replace it. This is done in a coordinated manner to ensure that there is no overgrowth of cells. The process is largely coordinated by the genes. In cancer this controlled pattern of cell growth is disturbed. Abnormal cells grow aggressively and invade the healthy tissue. It is mainly due to damaged or defective genes.

The prostate gland is a part of the male reproductive system. It produces and stores seminal fluid. The prostate is located in the the pelvis, just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds a portion of the urethra into which it empties seminal fluid when needed. Prostate cancer is an adenocarcinoma. The cancerous cells usually develop in the peripheral region of the gland. Initially the cancer may remain confined to a small area of the prostate known as carcinoma-in-situ but with progression of the disease the cancer spreads to other parts of the prostate.

Risk factors

  • Elderly males over 65 years of age.
  • Men of African descent are more likely to suffer from aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
  • Obesity.
  • Family history of prostate cancer.
  • Chronic alcoholism.
  • Environmental and occupational exposure to certain toxic substances (carcinogens).

Treatment

Treatment depends upon the stage of the cancer. Initial stage of the disease with slow growth does not require any treatment but regular follow up with blood tests and rectal examination as well as imaging studies. Surgery is conducted to remove the tumor but the entire prostate gland is removed at times. Radiation therapy applied both from the outside and inside destroy the cancerous cells. Reduction of male hormone testosterone production and action can be achieved by hormone therapy in order to reduce tumor growth. Chemotherapy is reserved for less responsive cases.

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