PROSTATE CANCER, CAUSES, SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

By Zain Liaquat 9 Min Read

What is Prostate?

Prostate is a gland that is part of a male’s reproductive system. It weighs about an ounce and looks like a walnut. However, the size of the prostate gland is variable, which means some older men might have a bigger prostate gland.

Prostate is located in front of the rectum and just below the bladder. Behind the prostate are the seminal vesicles. Together prostate and seminal vesicles make the fluid that comes out of the penis along with semen through urethra.

What is Prostate Cancer?

Cancer begins when cells in any part of the body start growing out of control. Cells in any part of the body are capable of becoming cancerous cells.

Prostate cancer starts when cells in the prostate gland start growing in an uncontrollable or disorderly manner.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Initially prostate cancer is not symptomatic, but with passage of time patients start displaying symptoms that can look similar to symptoms of BPH or enlarged prostate. Following are a few symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • loss of weight and appetite
  • pain in the hips, lower back, pelvic area or upper thighs
  • bloody urine
  • painful ejaculation

What are the causes of Prostate cancer?

Doctors and researchers haven’t been able to identify the exact causes of Prostate cancer as yet. But there are certain factors that increase a man’s chances of getting the disease. Those factors are:

Age: Prostate cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in older men which means that the risk of getting prostate cancer keeps going up with the passage of age. It happens very rarely that a man below 40 gets diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Family history: Men who have a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to get the disease. The risk keeps on increasing with the number of relatives that are diagnosed with prostate cancer. A man who has a family history of prostate cancer is 2 to 3 times more likely than a man without any family.

Ethnicity: African American men are at highest risk to get the disease. According to a study, one in six African-American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age. Moreover the tumours found in African-Americans are more likely to be aggressive and life threatening. The reasons behind the disease’s prevalence in African-American men are still vague. However Hispanics and Asians are less likely to get the disease.

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Smoking: Studies show that smoking doubles your risk of getting prostate cancer. After you quit smoking within 10 years your risk of getting prostate cancer goes down to the level of a non-smoker of your age.

Diet: Obesity and poor diet are directly linked with various deadly diseases, one of those is prostate cancer. If you eat more animal fats, refined sugars and calories and don’t exercise then you increase your chances of getting prostate cancer.

How can Prostate cancer be diagnosed?

Following are the ways to diagnose prostate cancer:

Prostate Specific Antigen Blood Test: Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA is a protein produced by prostate and prostate cancers. A low level of PSA in the blood means that a man has a healthy prostate however a high level of PSA is a sign that there may be prostate cancer. However enlargement or inflammation of the prostate can also cause high PSA levels in the blood. PSA test is done in a lab just like any other blood test following the regime of a venipuncture.

DRE: Another way to diagnose prostate cancer is DRE or digital rectal examination. For this examination, a health care provider puts a gloved lubricated finger into the patient’s rectum to feel any abnormal growth or thickness of the prostate. It is a safe and easy procedure to perform. But DRE itself cannot tell if a patient has prostate cancer or not, it should be performed with a PSA blood test to reveal clear results.

Biopsy: Some doctors recommend biopsies to diagnose prostate cancer. A prostate biopsy is performed using an ultrasonic probe which goes into the rectum of the patient and takes a picture of the prostate using ultrasonic waves. The radiologist notes the size and shape of the prostate gland and looks for any abnormalities that may indicate cancer. Then an anaesthetic needle passes through the probe and numbs the prostate gland. Then tiny tissues are removed from the prostate gland with the help of a biopsy device which are studied under a microscope to find out if the patient has prostate cancer or not.

How can Prostate cancer be treated?

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer then the team of your health care provider will discuss treatment options with you depending on the stage and grade of your cancer. Following are the treatment options that are available for prostate cancer:

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Active surveillance for prostate cancer: Active surveillance or watchful waiting is the first treatment option for prostate cancer. It includes PSA blood tests after every six months and DREs at least once a year. Prostate biopsies and imaging tests are also a part of this approach. It helps specialists like a Urologist in Lahore in monitoring the cancer and deciding if the treatment is needed or not.

Surgery for prostate cancer: Three types of surgeries are performed to cure prostate cancer. Each of them uses different tools and techniques to remove the prostate gland and tissues around it.

Cryotherapy for prostate cancer: Cryotherapy is best suited for patients who cannot undergo surgery or radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer. This method freezes the prostate gland to destroy the cancer cells

Hormone therapy for prostate cancer: Prostate cancer cells are dependent on testosterone to grow. What hormone therapy does is it blocks or lowers testosterone levels in the blood that fuel cancer. Hormone therapy can be done surgically or with the help of medication.

Immuno therapy for prostate cancer: Immuno therapy stimulates one’s own immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells. Cells are re-engineered and put back in the body to recognise and attack prostate cancer cells more effectively.

Radiation therapy for prostate cancer: Radiation therapy uses high-frequency rays to kill or slow down the growth of cancerous cells. Two types of radiation therapies are used to treat prostate cancer one is external beam radiation therapy and the other is Brachytherapy or internal radiation.

Chemotherapy for prostate cancer: For chemotherapy drugs are given either intravenously or orally. These drugs destroy cancer cells that are present anywhere in the body. This method of treatment has serious side-effects.

Targeted therapy for prostate cancer: Targeted therapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It does very little damage to normal cells in the process.

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Can prostate cancer be prevented?

One can prevent prostate cancer by watching what they eat, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. Some health care practitioners prescribe drugs like finasteride and dutasteride to prevent prostate cancer. People who have used these drugs are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However before starting any kind of medication one should consult a Urologist in Karachi to make the right choice.

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