Prostatic cancer

Below is a brief introduction to prostatic cancer. Please always consult a doctor for an examination if you experience symptoms of or suspect prostatic cancer.

What is prostatic cancer?

Prostatic cancer is a form of cancer which occurs in the prostate. Prostatic cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among men. The cancer is initially limited to the prostatic gland. While some cases of prostatic cancer grow slowly, others are aggressive and grow and spread quickly. The earlier a prostatic cancer is detected, the better chance of a successful treatment it has. Symptoms or suspicions of prostatic cancer should always be consulted with a doctor.

Learn about the prostate

What causes prostatic cancer?

The cause of prostatic cancer has not been identified. Some aspects appear however to increase the risk of developing prostatic cancer such as a calcium rich diet and overweight. Age seems also to increase the risk of prostatic cancer as most cases appear with men above 50 years. Family history of prostatic cancer may also affect the likelihood, just as African ethnicity for some reason appears to be more prone to prostatic cancer.

How is prostatic cancer diagnosed?

Most often prostatic cancer is diagnosed in a screening process through digital rectal examination or by testing for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is a natural substance excreted by the prostate which may be higher among men with prostatic cancer. The actual diagnosis of prostatic cancer will most often be carried out by means of a biopsy, in which small samples of prostatic tissue are extracted through a needle and tested under a microscope to identify any cancer cells.

Symptoms of prostatic cancer

The symptoms of prostatic cancer may vary in magnitude depending on the stage of the cancer. If you are in doubt about whether you are experiencing symptoms, a doctor can examine and evaluate if treatment is necessary. Examples of prostatic cancer symptoms can be seen below

  • Difficulty in starting urination
  • Interrupted and/or weak urinary stream
  • Continuous feeling of having a full bladder
  • Inability to empty the bladder completely
  • Frequent urination especially at night
  • Blood in the urine

What are the treatment options for prostatic cancer?

The right treatment of prostatic cancer typically depends on a range of factors including the stage of cancer, the patient’s age and preferences for treatment. Below follow examples of how prostatic cancer may be treated including examples of their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Watchfull waiting

If the cancer is growing slowly or unlikely to reach a critical state within the patient’s expected lifetime, some doctors may prefer to simply monitor the condition and follow up frequently to evaluate the development. Watchful waiting has the advantage of no side-effects or complications but comes with the risk that a cancer is not treated in due time.

Major surgery

Radical prostatectomy is a type of surgery which removes the prostate gland and its surrounding tissue often including nearby lymph nodes. Radical prostatectomy may be effective in treatment of prostatic cancers which have not yet spread beyond the prostate but is a major surgery with risks and possible complication such as incontinence and impotence.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is a treatment to stop the body from producing androgens (testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) which is believed to fuel the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. Hormone therapy may help control cancer, even if spread to other areas of the body. It can enhance effect of other treatments but is not known to cure prostate cancer on its own and can cause undesired side effects affecting daily life.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a drug-based treatment using powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in the body including cancer cells. Chemotherapy is an effective way to eliminate cancer cells and may either alone or in combination with other treatments cure cancer altogether but does cause risk of a range of short and long-term side effects, of which some can be treated.

External beam radiation

In external beam radiation therapy a marker to be targeted by the beam is placed inside the prostate. The indicator can either be a gold marker inserted by means of a needle, or a metallic stent inserted through the penis. Overall external beam radiation may effectively treat prostate cancer but does cause risk of a range of unwanted side effects affecting daily life.

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