Health A to Z Last updated on 2021-04-06 13:40:22
All you Need to Know About Prostate Cancer
- Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri
- 5 Min Read
The prostate is a small walnut-sized gland, present only in males, surrounding the tube that carries urine away from the bladder and to the urethra. It makes some of the fluid that is part of the semen.
What is prostate cancer?Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous and spread to other areas of the body. Prostate cancer happens when the cells of the prostate glands mutate and begin to spread uncontrollably. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in men and progresses at a very slow rate and there are no early signs of this condition. However, there are certain types of prostate cancer that can be quite aggressive and therefore dangerous. Treatment works best when it is detected in the early stages when the cancer is only in the prostate glands.
Some facts about prostate cancer that every Indian should know
- It is the third leading cancer among Indian men, accounting for 7% of cancers in the country.
- Around 99% of the cases for prostate cancer are most commonly seen after the age of 50.
- The incidence of prostate cancer has shot up by over 220% since the 1990s.
- Some of the reasons for the increase in the number of prostate cancer cases in the country are changing lifestyles, increased intake of fat in the diet, high body mass index (BMI).
Causes of prostate cancerThe direct cause of prostate cancer is yet to be found. Researchers have linked inherited and acquired gene mutations to be the cause of cancer in some cases and they account for a small number of prostate cancers, that run in families. For example, BRCA2 mutations could cause prostate cancer and also lead to ovarian and breast cancers in the family.
Symptoms of prostate cancer
Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. Advanced prostate cancers sometimes cause symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decrease in the force of urination
- Presence of blood in semen or urine
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic regions (if cancer has spread to bones)
- Trouble getting an erection
- Weakness or numbness in legs, or even loss of bladder and bowel control due to cancer pressing the on the spinal cord
Complications associated with prostate cancerOnce the cancer is in the advanced stages, it spreads to nearby areas in the body such as the bladder, bones and other organs. Incontinence is another major complication associated with both prostate cancer and its treatment. Erectile dysfunction is one of the side effects of prostate cancer treatment. Medications and vacuum devices are used to manage this.
Diagnosis of prostate cancerThere are a few screening tests to detect prostate cancer in its early stages such as a DRE (digital rectal exam) and the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test. The doctor looks for any abnormalities in the prostate gland during a DRE and the PSA is a blood test that detects the level of PSA (a substance that is produced by the prostate gland) in it. In case of any abnormalities during the DRE or in case of elevated levels of PSA, further diagnostics may be recommended. The following tests are used to determine the presence of prostate cancer:
- Ultrasound - A transrectal ultrasound is done to get a clear view of the gland and see if there are any abnormalities in it.
- MRI - MRIs are being increasingly used to detect the presence of cancer in the prostate gland.
- Biopsy - A tissue sample is collected from the prostate gland using a thin needle and analyzed in a lab to detect the presence of carcinoma.
Treatment OptionsThere are many treatment options for prostate cancer depending on the stage in which the cancer is detected. In some cases, immediate treatment may not be necessary such as in the case of low-risk cancer. The doctor might recommend watchful waiting or active surveillance.
Active SurveillanceThis simply means having regular check-ups, blood tests, and scans to monitor the condition. In the case where cancer progresses rapidly, radiation or surgery may be advised. This option may also be given to someone who is already suffering from another serious ailment.
Radiation TherapyRadiation may be prescribed to kill the cancerous cells in certain cases. There are two kinds of radiation therapies- external and internal. External radiation as the name suggests is radiation therapy that targets the prostate cancer from outside the body while internal radiation uses seeds (that are shaped like rice) placed in the prostate tissue to target the cancerous cells. This is called brachytherapy and the seeds are implanted by a doctor inside the gland.
Hormone TherapyHormone therapy relies on the fact that prostate cancer cells use testosterone to grow and multiply. Cutting off the testosterone supply to the cells will reduce the rate of growth and in some cases cause the death of cancer-causing cells. There are two ways to accomplish the same:
- By using blocking medications.
- By surgically removing the testicles. This is usually suggested as a last resort and in older men.
CryosurgeryThis method is used to freeze cancer-causing tissues in the prostate gland thus killing the cancerous cells. With advancement in technology, this option has become much safer and has minimal side effects. It is generally recommended in cases where there hasn’t been much relief with radiation therapy.
ChemotherapyIn cases where the response for hormone therapy has not been satisfactory, chemotherapy is prescribed. This therapy is typically used when cancer has not spread.
Reducing the risk of prostate cancer
There is no guaranteed way of preventing any kind of cancer. However, certain steps can be taken towards reducing the risk of prostate cancer such as :
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Reducing the amount of dairy and fat consumed
- Exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
- Cessation of cigarette smoking
- Talking to your physician about your risk of developing prostate cancer
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