Early prostate cancer is confined to the prostate gland itself; most of the patients with this type of cancer can live for years without any problems. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized structure that makes up part of a man’s reproductive system; it wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. The main job of the prostate gland is to make seminal fluid, the milky substance that transports sperm.
Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor of the prostate gland. At an advanced age, the risks of surgery for prostate cancer or other more radical treatments may actually be worse than the disease. About 80 percent of men who reach the age of 80 have it.
If you have one or more prostate cancer symptoms, you should see a qualified doctor as soon as possible. Because these symptoms can mimic other diseases or disorders, men who experience any of these symptoms should undergo a thorough work-up to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. Other symptoms might include unintentional weight loss and lethargy.
If cancer is caught at its earliest stages, most men will not experience any symptoms. One symptom is a need to urinate frequently, especially at night. There may be other symptoms not mentioned here.
There is a newer test called AMACR that is more sensitive than the PSA test for determining the presence of prostate cancer. A prostate biopsy usually confirms the diagnosis. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test measures the PSA enzyme in your blood for abnormalities.
Another test usually used when symptoms are present is the digital rectal exam (DRE) performed by the doctor. There are several potential downsides to PSA testing; for example a high PSA does not always mean a patient has prostate cancer. A PSA test with a high level can also be from a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
In patients whose health makes the risk of surgery unacceptably high, radiation therapy is often the chosen conventional alternative. Besides hormonal drugs, hormone manipulation may also be done by surgically removing the testes. Prostate cancer that has spread (metastasized) may be treated conventionally with drugs to reduce testosterone levels, surgery to remove the testes, chemotherapy or nothing at all.
Recent improvements in surgical procedures have made complications occur less often. An oncology specialist will usually recommend treating with a single drug or a combination of drugs. Surgery, called a radical prostatectomy, removes the entire prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissues.
Side effects of chemotherapy drugs depend on which ones you’re taking and how often and how long they’re taken. Medicines can be used to adjust the levels of testosterone; called hormonal manipulation. Whether radiation is as good as removing the prostate gland is debatable and the decision about which to choose, if any, can be difficult.
The conventional treatment of prostate cancer is often controversial. Radiation therapy to the prostate gland is either external or internal, both of which use high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Impotence is a potential complication after the prostatectomy or after radiation therapy.
Medications can have many side effects, including hot flashes and loss of sexual desire. Surgery, radiation, hormonal therapy and chemotherapy all have significant side effects; know fully what they are before you proceed.
Evidence indicates that many patients detect their cancer at an earlier stage because of annual screening, so make sure to get an exam. The outcome of prostate cancer varies greatly; mostly because the disease is found in older men who may have a variety of other complicating diseases or conditions, such as cardiac or respiratory disease, or disabilities that immobilize or greatly decrease their activities. Because it’s a slow-growing disease, many men with this disease will die from other causes before they die from prostate cancer.