What Do You Know about Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common cancer in men worldwide. It is also among the top 5 leading causes of death among men globally. Over 1 million new cases of prostate cancer occur worldwide, each year.
In most cases, this cancer is diagnosed in the late stages as it does not exhibit many symptoms in its early stage. That is why creating awareness about prostate cancer and sensitizing men on getting diagnosed for this condition, is very crucial in reducing the number of deaths that occur due to this type cancer.
How would you know if you have prostate cancer?
It is quite difficult to realize any changes that may indicate the possibility for this cancer, especially in the early stages. However, as the disease progresses, some of these symptoms may be experienced:
- Blood in the urine or semen,
- Discomfort when urinating,
- Erectile dysfunction,
- Not being able to urinate even when you have the urge to, and
- Swelling of the prostate gland, among other symptoms.
If you experience these symptoms, it is advisable to see a doctor as soon as possible to find out the cause. Many other conditions can cause those symptoms, so it may not be prostate cancer, but it is still important to get any potential concerns checked.
What can increase your risk for Prostate Cancer?
Men from the age of 50 years and above are more likely to get prostate cancer, however men below this age can also develop prostate cancer. Other factors that increase the risk for prostate cancer include:
- Having had cancer in the past especially kidney cancer, bladder or thyroid cancer,
- Having other conditions such as prostatitis which is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the prostate gland,
- Having a family member who has or has had prostate cancer in the past,
- Being obese, and
- Eating a poor diet which include a lot of processed foods and which is high in fats.
Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer
To get a proper diagnosis for prostate cancer, it is important to have regular screening especially for men who are 50 years and above as they are at a higher risk of developing this cancer; or at age 45 if they are at high risk and at age 40 if they are at very high risk (those with several first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer).
This condition can be diagnosed through:
- Physical exam: This is done during regular screening or the initial consultation when you explain your symptoms to the doctor. The doctor also gets to know your medical history and that of your family. The physical exam enables the doctor to do a digital pelvic exam through which any abnormalities in the prostate can be identified. This is done by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities like swelling.
- Imaging tests: These are done to give clear and detailed images of the inside of the pelvic area using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which enables the doctor to view the prostate gland and identify any abnormalities in the prostate gland.
- Transrectal ultrasound: This is done using an x-ray machine which uses high frequency sound waves giving images of the prostate which can also help in determining whether there are any abnormalities in the prostate such as a lump.
- Biopsy: This is done by taking a sample of tissue from the prostate gland, viewing it under a microscope for presence of cancer cells to determine whether a person has prostate cancer or not.
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: A blood sample is taken and tested to check the protein level. If the protein level in the blood is high, that may indicate presence of prostate cancer.
The treatment of prostate cancer depends on what stage the cancer is in and the general health of a person suffering from this cancer. After determining these factors, a doctor can then decide on the best treatment option to use. These treatment options include:
- Surgery: This is performed to remove the cancer tumour or the entire prostate gland. The different types of surgeries are:
1. Surgery to remove the tumour if the cancer is in the early stage,
2. Transurethral resection (TUR/TURP): This surgery is done to remove the inner part of the prostate gland.
3. Radical Prostatectomy: The entire prostate gland is removed through this surgical procedure.
4. Orchidectomy: This surgery is done to remove the entire prostate gland and the testicles, if the cancer has spread to the testicles as well.
- Depending on the stage of cancer, surgery can be followed by other treatments including:
1. Chemotherapy: This treatment option involves using anti-cancer drugs to kill the cancer cells.
2. Hormone therapy: This is treatment done to prevent the cancer cells from getting the hormones they required to grow.
3. Radiotherapy: Using high-energy beams to destroy the cancer cells and prevent them from spreading further. Other types of radiation therapy are:
a. Brachytherapy: It is a type of radiation treatment that involves implanting radioactive material in the body to allow a doctor to deliver high doses of radiation on the affected area.
b. Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-DRT): This type of radiation treatment uses a set of CT images in identification of the tumour and normal tissue cells that need to be avoided during radiotherapy to prevent the radiation from destroying or harming the normal cells.
c. Image Guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Uses a combination of x-ray imaging and radiation treatment to track daily changes in the shape and location of the tumour and the normal tissue surrounding the tumour.
d. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): This treatment considers the shape and intensity of the radiation beams used to destroy the cancer cells.
Prevention of Prostate Cancer
Prevention is better than a cure and it is import for every man to be aware of what to do to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, as there is no specific way to prevent it from developing.
- Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits and less processed meat, as well as high in fibre
- Limit alcohol intake
- Not smoking
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Remaining physically active by exercising regularly
- Increasing antioxidant consumption
- Getting enough vitamin D, which keeps the testosterone levels in check which can help to prevent the prostate gland from growing bigger
- Getting treatment for conditions such as prostatitis which can increase your prostate cancer risk