Prostate Health: Prostate Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment
Cancer is a disease process that affects almost anyone, yet some cancer types are specific to males, such as prostate cancer. Prostate cancer has a high prevalence in men, accounting for more than 1 million cases annually worldwide (approximately 100,000 cases in the United States alone). It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland begin to grow uncontrollably, eventually leading to the formation of a tumor. In this article, we will discuss the diagnosis, causes, and effective treatment of prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer and Types
The prostate is a small gland located in the lower pelvis of males which is responsible for the production of semen, the fluid that nourishes and protects sperm cells. The prostate, which is regulated by testosterone, plays a major role in human reproduction.
Prostate cancer is the growth of abnormal cells within the prostate gland. While this type of cancer is known to grow slowly and is often detected early, prostate cancer can spread throughout the male body and lead to death if undetected. As with most cancers, the extent of growth or the cancer stage is the determining factor in developing a treatment plan. The rate of growth further categorizes prostate cancer. Faster-growing prostate cancer is defined as aggressive, and slower-growing prostate cancer is defined as non-aggressive.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer often doesn’t produce any symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms may appear once the cancer grows large enough to put pressure on the urethra. Symptoms can include:
- Trouble starting to urinate or needing to urinate more often than usual
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostatitis. It’s essential to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
The diagnosis of prostate cancer is usually made through regular health care visits with a physician. Unfortunately, many males do not see their doctor regularly, which is why even a slow-growing cancer can develop into an advanced stage. Thus, seeing your doctor regularly is the best way to prevent this poor outcome.
The following are the most common ways to discover the diagnosis and determine if another condition, such as hyperplasia of prostatitis, exists:
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
A digital rectal exam (DRE) is an exam in which a healthcare professional inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. The doctor can palpate any abnormality of the prostate. For example, the prostate can be markedly enlarged or have palpable nodules, which can represent an abnormal growth or tumor. This examination is one of the most common ways to detect prostate cancer.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. High levels of PSA can be a sign of prostate cancer or other prostate problems, such as BPH or prostatitis.
If your PSA levels are elevated or your DRE indicates an abnormality, your healthcare provider may recommend further testing to determine if you have prostate cancer.
If your healthcare provider suspects you have prostate cancer, they may recommend a prostate biopsy. During a prostate biopsy, your healthcare provider will remove a small tissue sample from your prostate gland
While prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in men, the general outlook of such a malignancy is quite positive.
Prostate cancer treatment has proven to be very effective and has led to better 5-year survival rates than other cancers. But, of course, the earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the outcome of men with prostate cancer. In addition, because prostate cancer is such a slow-growing cancer, the likelihood of early detection is high.
The most important aspect of managing prostate health is the regular checkup with your physician or healthcare provider, ensuring the best possible chance of early detection and treatment.