What Is Prostate Cancer? Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
Even if you do your best to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s not always possible to prevent serious health problems as you get older, such as prostate cancer. Prostate cancer occurs when mutated cells multiply in the prostate gland and is more common among older males. It’s the most common cancer for males besides skin cancer, affecting 1 in 8 people. Therefore, it is important to monitor your prostate and investigate any signs of cancer as soon as possible.
What Is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is a gland about the size and shape of a walnut. It’s located just underneath the bladder, and its function is to make seminal fluid, which carries sperm. Only males have a prostate, so prostate cancer does not affect females.
Cancer cells begin to form when a mutation occurs. A tumor can form inside the prostate gland if these mutated cells start replicating. In some cases, these abnormal cancer cells will spread to other areas of the body and affect major organs. It’s important to catch prostate cancer early to increase the chances of a successful recovery because this cancer is easier to treat if it hasn’t spread throughout the body yet.
Signs & Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Most males who have prostate cancer don’t notice any symptoms until the later stages. Once it has advanced, prostate cancer can cause several symptoms, including:
- Trouble peeing
- Pain with peeing
- Reduced flow of pee
- Needing to pee more often
- Getting up in the middle of the night to pee
- Blood in your pee or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
Some of these symptoms can also be associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a less serious problem. But it is important to take your symptoms seriously since they can indicate you have prostate cancer. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should speak with your doctor.
Risk Factors and Preventing Prostate Cancer
We don’t know exactly what causes prostate cancer, but some risk factors put you at a higher risk of having it. Demographics reveal higher rates of prostate cancer in certain groups, which can help you understand your own risk. You might be more likely to develop prostate cancer if you:
- Are over 50
- Have African or Caribbean heritage
- Are overweight or obese
- Eat a diet filled with unsaturated fats
- Have a family history of prostate cancer
It isn’t possible to prevent prostate cancer. However, you can reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Because prostate cancer is less common in younger people, watching out for signs and symptoms becomes more important as you get older. It’s a good idea to get your prostate checked during your annual physical, especially after age 50. You should speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting a prostate cancer screening since there is mixed evidence about its usefulness.
How Doctors Diagnose Prostate Cancer
- Rectal exam: Most doctors advise regular prostate checks for adult males with a digital rectal exam. This involves the doctor using a finger to feel the prostate through the rectum (the lowest part of the intestines) to check for any enlargement, hardening, or other abnormalities.
- Prostate-specific antigen test: Your doctor may also recommend a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer or help with the diagnosis. If you have symptoms of prostate cancer or your doctor notices any changes in your prostate, they might order some diagnostic testing to check for cancer.
- MRI: In addition to the PSA blood test, you might need imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check your prostate.
- Biopsy: A biopsy might be the next step if anything concerning shows up in the images your doctor orders. If you need a biopsy, your doctor will take a tissue sample from the prostate for analysis. Your doctor will discuss all of these steps with you if it becomes necessary, and you should ask them any questions you have before proceeding.
Treatments for Prostate Cancer
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor might have you see a specialist or will recommend a protocol for treatment. With the screening tests, prostate cancer is often caught earlier in the disease process. Therefore, prostate cancer can develop very slowly and stay within the prostate gland. So your doctor might recommend starting with a “watch and wait” plan to see how the cells develop. In that case, you would need to return to the doctor’s office for regularly monitoring to ensure that the cancer does not start advancing.
Your doctor might advise treatment if your tumor is caught later or is causing uncomfortable symptoms. There are many different treatments available for prostate cancer, depending on the situation and the stage or grade of the cancer. Treatments may include:
- Surgery to remove the prostate gland
- Radiation therapy
- Heat or cold therapy to destroy cancer cells
- Hormone therapy to cut off testosterone from the prostate
- Targeted drug therapy
After undergoing various diagnostic tests, your doctor will make a treatment plan that’s customized for you. Then they’ll monitor you to see how your body responds to the treatments.
Survival Rates and Outlook for Prostate Cancer
Getting a prostate cancer diagnosis does not mean you will die from the health condition. In fact, the 5-year survival rate is 99%, and only about 5 of every 100 people diagnosed with prostate cancer die within 15 years. Many people are cancer-free after 5 years with treatment.
With that said, it’s still important to get checked out by a doctor if you notice any symptoms or have multiple risk factors. It’s also a good idea to have your doctor check and monitor your prostate regularly for any changes. Prostate exams aren’t fun, but they can help your doctor detect any issues before they start to advance.
If you are concerned about prostate cancer, you should speak with your doctor. They can help you determine your symptoms and risk and order diagnostic testing if needed. Even though the condition often develops slowly, there are exceptions. Starting treatment at the right time is important for reducing the chances of advanced disease and complications.
Getting a cancer diagnosis can be scary. If your doctor diagnoses you with prostate cancer, you may find it helpful to seek support from other people who are going through the same thing. There are lots of cancer support groups that meet online or in person. It can be good to talk with people who understand how you’re feeling.
Prostate cancer isn’t something to ignore, but it’s highly treatable and less likely to cause problems than most other kinds of cancer. Talk to your doctor about your options so you can work together to maintain your health and well-being.