I want to commend you for your write up last week on Glioblastoma. Please can you write about prostate cancer which is afflicting my dad at the moment?
Thanks Annabel for your question and wishing your dad quick recovery. Prostate cancer is a cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm.
It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancers grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly. Prostate cancer that is detected early, when it is still confined to the prostate gland has a better chance of successful treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages.
Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
1. Trouble urinating
2. Decreased force in the stream of urine
3. Blood in semen
4. Discomfort in the pelvic area
5. Bone pain
6. Erectile dysfunction
What are the causes?
It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer. Prostate cancer begins when some cells in the prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do.
The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
What are the risk factors?
• Age. Risk of prostate cancer increases with age.
• Race. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
• Family history. If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased.
• Obesity. Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.
What are the complications?
Complications of prostate cancer and its treatments include:
1. Cancer that spreads (metastasizes). Prostate cancer can spread to nearby organs, such as your bladder, or travel through your bloodstream or lymphatic system to your bones or other organs. Prostate cancer that spreads to the bones can cause pain and broken bones.
2. Incontinence. Both prostate cancer and its treatment can cause urinary incontinence.
3. Erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can result from prostate cancer or its treatment, including surgery, radiation or hormone treatments.
What are the preventive ways?
• Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Avoid high-fat foods and instead focus on choosing a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients that can contribute to your health.
• Choose healthy foods over supplements.
• Exercise most days of the week. Exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mood.
• Maintain a healthy weight. If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by exercising most days of the week.
Diagnosing prostate cancer?
If a digital rectal exam or prostate-specific antigen test detects an abnormality, your doctor may recommend further tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer, such as:
• Ultrasound. Use of transrectal ultrasound to further evaluate prostate.
• Collecting a sample of prostate tissue. If initial test results suggest prostate cancer, doctor may recommend a procedure to collect a sample of cells from prostate (prostate biopsy).
• MRI fusion. While still being developed worldwide, MRI fusion to assist in prostate biopsy and diagnosis is being used more and more.
What are the treatment options?
For men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer, treatment may not be necessary right away. Some men may never need treatment. Instead, doctors sometimes recommend active surveillance.
• Surgery to remove the prostate
• Radiation therapy
• Hormone therapy
• Medications that stop body from producing testosterone.
• Freezing prostate tissue (Cryosurgery or cryoablation involves freezing tissue to kill cancer cells.)