What Is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the development of cancer cells in the prostate gland (a gland that produces fluid for semen). It is a very common cancer in men; some cancers grow very slowly while others are very aggressive and spread quickly to other organs. Is Prostate Cancer?
Symptoms of prostate cancer are variable; some men have no symptoms until the cancer develops over years. However, symptoms that can develop include the following:
- Urinary frequency
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Interrupted or weak or slow urinary stream
- Blood in urine or in semen
- Discomfort (pain or burning sensation with urination or ejaculation)
- Intense pain in the low back, hips, or thighs, often present with aggressive or prostatic cancer spread to other organs
Two conditions can cause some symptoms that mimic those seen in prostate cancer described previously. The first is termed benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH results
from the prostate growing larger but the growth is not cancerous. BPH causes symptoms by creating pressure on the bladder, urethra, or both. BPH commonly occurs in elderly men. The second condition is termed prostatitis (inflammation or infection of the prostate gland). Both conditions are treated medically but some individuals with BPH may require surgical treatment.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
Aging in men (beginning at age 50) is the greatest risk factor for both BPH and prostate cancer. In addition, having a father or brother with prostate cancer doubles the risk for prostate cancer; however, African American males have the highest risk for prostate cancer. Research suggests that the majority of men at age 70 have some form of prostatic cancer with most of them showing no symptoms.
Controllable Risk Factors
Researchers suggest a diet low in fruits and vegetables but high in meats and high-fat dairy products increases the risk for prostate cancer. The mechanism(s) for this is being investigated but current speculation suggests meat and high-fat foods contain compounds that augment the growth of cancer cells.
Prostate Cancer Myths
There are many myths about why prostate cancer develops. However, there is no evidence that "too much sex," masturbation, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or a vasectomy increases the risk or causes prostate cancer. Current research is investigating if STDs, prostatitis, or alcohol use increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?
- Men aged 40 with more than one close relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age
- Men aged 45 that are African American or have a father, brother, or son diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65
- Men aged 50 or older who have average risk and expect to live at least 10 more years
Prostate Cancer Imaging
Prostatic cancer spread may be detected by several different tests such as ultrasound, CT, MRI, and a radionuclide bone scan. Doctors will help determine which tests are best for each individual patient.
Prostate Cancer Staging
Prostate cancer staging is a method that indicates how far the cancer has spread in the body and is used to help determine the best treatment method for the patient. Cancer that has spread to other body sites or organs is termed metastatic cancer. In terms of prostate cancer, the cancer stages are as follows:
Stage I: The cancer is small and still contained within the prostate gland.
Stage II: The cancer is more advanced, but is still confined within the prostate gland.
Stage III: The cancer has spread to the outer part of the prostate and to the nearby seminal vesicles.
Stage IV: The cancer has spread to lymph nodes, other nearby organs, or tissues such as
the rectum or bladder, or to distant sites such as the lungs or bones.
Aggressive prostate cancer often reaches stage IV but others that are less aggressive may never progress past stage I, II, or III.
Prostate Cancer Survival Rates
In most individuals, prostate cancer progresses slowly through stages; about all individuals diagnosed with stage I to III prostate cancer survive 5 years or longer and with current treatments, the outlook is even better for future survival. Even stage IV has a 5-year survival rate of about 31% and this figure may also increase with advancement in treatment methods.