Almost one out of seven men can expect to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. This silent killer can develop into a severe health issue with few symptoms to signal its presence. If it's detected early, it can be cured with little impact to your life. Here is what you need to know about this disease and how to keep it from affecting your health.
A Slow Growing Cancer With No Known Cause
It starts as abnormal cells in the prostate which begin to reproduce. These cells grow slowly, eventually coalescing into a tumor. Most of the cells stay in the same location in the prostate. Unfortunately, a few may break off from the tumor and spread to other organs in the body.
If the cells stay localized, prostate cancer can easily be treated and often cured. Once they migrate to other areas of the body, treatment is much more difficult with the prognosis of a complete cure reduced.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, although age and family history appear to be risk factors. Since it can strike nearly any man, screening for prostate cancer is important. Talk with your urologist about how often you should be screened, based on your age and any family history of the disease.
Because symptoms rarely occur with prostate cancer, screening is necessary to detect this disease before it spreads and makes treatment difficult.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
When symptoms do occur, they can appear like another health problem. Some symptoms may be ignored as a minor or one-off occurrence. If you experience any of the following issues, see your doctor to rule out prostate cancer.
- problem starting and stopping urination
- the feeling that you frequently need to urinate
- urinating small amounts at a time
- urine leaks when you cough or sneeze
- burning sensation when you urinate
These symptoms can be the result of a prostate tumor irritating the urinary tract.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Two tests are typically used together when screening for prostate cancer:
- Antigen test - This is a blood test to check for the presence of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) that occurs when there are abnormal prostate cells.
- Manual exam - Your doctor will feel your prostate for any signs of enlargement due to a tumor.
If a diagnosis can't be confirmed with these tests, a biopsy of the prostate gland may be necessary.
Treating Prostate Cancer
Your urologist will suggest different treatments depending on how advanced the prostate tumor is. These may include:
- surgical removal of all or part of the prostate to get rid of the tumor
- radiation therapy to target the tumor in the prostate
- chemotherapy to treat cancer cells that have dispersed through the body
- hormone therapy to discourage the growth of the cancer cells