Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men in the United States.
Located in front of the rectum by the bladder, the walnut-sized prostate gland is responsible for storing semen and regulating certain bladder functions in men. When irregular, malignant cells form in this gland, the result is prostate cancer. The way this type of cancer affects men can vary.
Some patients respond well to minimal treatment if it’s relegated to prostate itself
Others may require more extensive treatment if the cancer has spread.
Prostate cancer develops when cells in the prostate mutate and become abnormal. It’s possible to experience little or no significant signs of the disease, especially during early stages. As the cancer advances, men may have difficulty urinating or see blood in their urine. Some patients develop erectile dysfunction, while others sometimes experience bone pain or general discomfort in the pelvic area.
How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
Prostate cancer is usually first detected during a prostate exam. A screening for cancer affecting the urinary system typically involves a digital rectal examination and lab work that may include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. After a biopsy confirms cancer, image tests may be done to examine other tissues and structures to determine if the disease has spread. A newer testing process is an MRI fusion, a targeted biopsy technique that uses images to identify suspicious tissues.
For men with low-risk prostate cancer, the only treatment recommended may be periodic observation. With this approach to treatment, there may be additional biopsies and blood tests to look for signs of the spreading beyond the initial location. If surgery becomes an option, it usually involves removal of part or all of the prostate (prostatectomy).
If a radical prostatectomy is performed, additional tissues and some nodes are also removed. Surgery can be performed in different ways. A traditional approach requires a larger incision in the lower abdomen. A robotic prostatectomy is a less-invasive approach to surgery done with smaller incisions and precisely controlled instrument movement. Some men may benefit from treatment that includes:
Biological therapy (immunotherapy): Improves the body’s ability to fight cancer.
Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to kill cancer cells.
Cryoablation: Cancer cells are attacked with cold gas.
Hormone therapy: Testosterone production is cut off to prevent cancer cells in the prostate from growing.
Radiation therapy: Internal or external radiation is used to destroy cancer cells.
Can Prostate Cancer Be Prevented?
Prostate cancer isn’t always preventable. Yet there are lifestyle habits that may minimize the risk of developing this disease. With diet, this means opting for nutrient-rich foods like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking plenty of water, and seeing a urologist if there are sudden changes in urination patterns are additional preventative steps that can be taken.
The majority of the 150,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year in the U.S. involve men 65 and older. It may progress slowly or advance rapidly and spread beyond the prostate. Regardless of the nature of the condition, patients are more likely to see positive results with treatment when it’s detected early. Since there are often no symptoms in early stages, it’s recommended that men 50 and over to get regular prostate exams. Screenings can also be helpful for men with a family history of the disease.